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Wednesday, August 23, 2023


by Kim Malinowski

Hundreds of West Virginia University students wearing red T-shirts and bandanas to symbolize their connection to striking coal miners a century ago staged protests Monday against an administration proposal to cut 9% of majors amid a $45 million budget shortfall. —AP, August 22, 2023

I write WVU into the stars, blue and gold constellations,

my pen shimmering faculty names, even as the administration’s slash

tenure positions, promises, dreams.

I learned that my pen is a magic wand here. 

It has not been so long ago that even mountaineers could be poets

and still shoot muskets and pretend that they had a home.

I met a freshman today that I will paint as glinting diamond,

fourth day confusion, standing on the side with professors,

telling me he is the transition and the PRTs still don’t work.

But he doesn’t cower, ready to swing full into engineering and life.

My mentors are battle hardened past the traditional 10 on the Mohs scale,

fighting, worrying, fighting more. Not able to tell their stories.

I told the university’s president that I could write WVU into the skies,

either as diamonds or as coal, because each are rocks 

on their way to becoming another rock. That freshman, those faculty

can fight and worry and fight.

I can write the stories they are not allowed to.

But we have a choice if we want the story to be about diamonds or coal.

Kim Malinowski is a poet and a mountaineer. She will have six books by the end of 2024 and credits much of her success to her instructors at West Virginia University. She wore red at the August 21, 2023 Protest, lives five hours away, and fights for those that fought for her.