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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Campus bathroom poem mourns ‘the way that change erases things’

Graffiti and SU construction inspire UB student’s poetry

Excerpts from the poem, "Eulogy for the Bathroom Graffiti in Student Union".
Excerpts from the poem, "Eulogy for the Bathroom Graffiti in Student Union".

Buffalo, blueberry muffins and bathroom graffiti all have one thing in common: Sydney King.

A senior media studies major at UB, King often writes poetry to socially process the world and implicitly express her emotions. Her first publicly displayed poem, “Eulogy for the Bathroom Graffiti in Student Union,” can be found in many bathroom stalls around campus.

“Eulogy” was inspired in part by the impacts of the current SU construction. Due to the renovations, the Student Union (SU) bathrooms are blocked off and much less busy. But their accessibility isn’t the only change—the positive, uplifting graffiti that once illegally decorated the women’s bathroom has been totally erased.

“I was honestly kind of saddened by how there was just nothing left,” King, who is also a former Spectrum staff photographer, said. “And in some ways, I understand that, but a lot of those words were just really nice.”

King’s inspiration also comes from her belief that bathrooms should be safe, welcoming spaces for a vulnerable activity—and that bathrooms are already associated with raw candidness and privacy, making them a great place for conversation or open emotions.

She says the poem has “a worshipful quality” of the modern “confessional box” and the graffiti that lines its walls. But beyond its subtle religious reverence for la toilette, the poem relies on a plant-based metaphor.

“When the bathroom is used pretty consistently, and before the construction, it was a lot like a garden,” King said. “Graffiti might be seen as weeds, but I still think it was beautiful.”

One particular stall in the SU women’s bathroom hosts the remnants of a message in bright pink ink. Now illegible due to UB’s graffiti removal efforts, King wrote it into the poem to express her desire to know the story of what came before.

“It kind of sucks,” King said, “because I feel like I used to know the space, like every time I’d be in a stall, I’d be like, ‘Oh, what’s changed since the last time I’ve been in here?’”

That bittersweet remembrance is the central theme of the poem.

No matter whether the graffiti is considered art or vandalism, no matter whether the renovations confuse students who just want to get to class, “Eulogy” shows that UB’s efforts to constantly remove and renew specific parts of campus represent something greater than a blank stall wall or an unrecognizable SU. What came before might now be unreachable.

“I think it’s a mourning for the way that change erases things, but ultimately an acceptance and maybe, you know, in some ways, sort of a hope for the future,” King said.

While King notes that the poem is not a call for more graffiti or vandalism and that she does not condone hate speech, harassment or other negativity, she offers the blank space on her poem’s page as a temporary, easily removable canvas for conversation and personal expression.

Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor and can be reached at xiola.bagwell@ubspectrum.com


XIOLA BAGWELL


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Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor at The Spectrum. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy/romance novels, watching lighthearted movies and spending time with her friends and family. Xiola is a linguistics major, minoring in Spanish. 

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