98. Profession

for the teachers


Has summer ever not wound to school,

wounding me with its insistent buzz and chirp:

work, work, work; done and gone, done and gone.


I try to freeze the days with compressors and sleep,

keep the nights as late as I can, blinking dots and books.

A few tasks, the mechanic’s, the stylist’s, the party, and the jaunt.


When the moon blooms full and bright as marigolds

and the naked ladies pop up pink and plain as ever

while the marsh mallows wave over small rooftops,


and the cicadas are stunned and dragged down

into burrows to live twice their lives

as food for some other species’ young,


we wake again and go, we teachers, we book-holders,

we paralyzed buzzers, our hair trimmed and our clothes new,

we go unarmed into their burrows, bringing our lives along.

— Laura Lee Washburn

Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Laura Lee Washburn, is an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of  This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, The Sun, The Journal, and elsewhere.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has lived in Pittsburg since 1997.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

2 thoughts on “98. Profession

  1. Absolutely love your imagery of teachers as paralyzed cicadas, bound to become food for the (cicada killers’) offspring!

    Also “pink and plain” naked ladies!

    So few people seem to pay attention to the cycles of the natural world, let alone tie them to common issues found in all of our lives. Thank you for a beautiful and thought-provoking poem.

  2. Thanks, Gaia. I’m really not sure how I came around to that metaphor, but it still surprises me and makes me laugh. And you’re right, I was very into the season at the moment I wrote that.

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