Short Ode to Franconia College

Karen Koltonow, Franconia Graduation, 1977

I think that what I might do is start with my first semester's impression of the zoo. The old and the new when I first started school: me clashing with what was still there of the old, and then that lady in green and what she told of the still older old. The odd young lady in a thick, what I remember as being a green and knit outfit, wearing what would be called a conservative two-piece straight skirt and jacket and a green headdress like a little turban nest perched upon her little head. I heard the sounds of her voice chirping while the "Great White Hope" played on in the auditorium. I thought, who is that bird, knowing then that nothing was too absurd that one heard coming from the lobby. For over an hour earlier that evening, I saw and heard someone wailing the blues because she and her boyfriend were through: eyes crying themselves into a deep red sea (which was then a light floral blue and sea green). Crying, reminding me of a plucked turkey. This was the eve before our Thanksgiving holiday. And here was this lady in green, squawking and causing an enigmatic scene to me. Crying, calling out to the older Franconia, her Franconia. I came down the stairs catching her as she was sketching a message on the powder green doors to the auditorium. "Franconia, Franconia, what's become of you?" she chanted. I was guessing what she meant by that. A short while later I saw her sitting in a booth down at the Dutch Treat. A friend and I heard her talking and went to listen to her bit of collegiate history. She was a graduate of the sixties, from Boston, up only that evening for a visit. And when we asked what she had been doing since she graduated, she matter of factly offered, "Looking for a job. That's all you're fit to do when you have graduated from this school."

"Franconia, Franconia, what have they done to you? You've let mere children in, children straight from high school."

(I had to guess if she knew that I was a fresh young one from one of those high schools.. I was part of the influx that year. The year enrollment hit 400.) "Franconia, Franconia, what did they do? They offered me beer, do you hear? Beer, do they dare! Look what has happened here since I left school. In my day it was heroin--yes-- but never the brew."

And I thought--Oh, no! Just another screw who used to go to this school. And I'm standing here chanting the same thing, too. Now I want to talk about inflation, I mean alienation, Separations anxiety, you know. We all go through it. It's all right; I can handle it. I'm a confirmed survivor. It's all about being born I the middle. When I ask myself what I'm doing here, I say, "It's because here is where I should be, want to be." Here is where I am, and lately it hasn't all felt right…

I mean, man, here I have been
Here making art and I'm here to
learn what I can and I can't learn without you.

My college is Life.
My degree is for "Them."
My wants are to share.
My teachers are everywhere.
My class surrounds me, the roles astound me,
the gaps, the holes, they confound me too.
I'm a voyeur.
I'm right here.
Can I be an embodiment of my creations?

An embodiment of all that I do, all those other extensions of …
Talking to you from on top of the pyramid amid the ash, the glory.

I'm here to retrace the story.
I feel like I'm the minority!

Bleed for me, you motherfuckers.
I am estranged! I'm the alien.

Pity poor me, sightless lesser in a community of equals,
doing a term to earn a degree.

Have I colored myself into the corner? I'd like to corner you And make you look out of the window. Then you'd have the better idea how/where the truth for me hangs, untouchable, surrounding the crevices, the cracks. I see no corners.

I don't feel like condoling, condoning, consoling the suffering Artist,

The hungry artist
The hurting artist
The bitter artist
The working artist
The failed artist
The mad artist

This person was a delirious, too serious of an artist in the fine art Of killing 'emself, no real art at all. Not me! I'm not delirious but you can believe I'm damn serious about my life's work I've yet begun.

I'm thinking of a harmony, a balance, to the extent just short of repent. I'm here to try to make sense. Not get confused and eventually fall and abuse the other cents. Doesn't it? Now think about it. I'm selfish, I'm responsible (because) it is I who wants to make a dent. That's how you will know that I'm not spent.

Franconia, a small college, co-ed, situated in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I wonder how many came here when they saw how things looked as they glanced out of the window-- the White Mountains and sometimes blue sky and trees and more mountains, and a town, and a ribbon of highway cutting through more mountains. I'll bet everyone thinks, "Hey, what a neat place to have a school. It sure is beautiful around here." I sure thought that to myself. I was in it for the view and got a vision instead.

Not many people have been here for four years. Not many make it to their graduation. I suspect as long as this old building stands, there will always be a Franconia. What more can I say? College was everything I thought it would crack up to be. It's been fun.

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