3rd Place Poetry Winner: Public Service During the Fall - Sean Riley
It’s time to go home.
I drive fast
on the graffitied freeways
of a staggering past.
I turn up the guajira
to drown out what I can barely handle:
the meaning of decent labor
in a nation of fantastic scandal.
I stretch for the weekend
like a life vest
for two days of buoyancy
above the unrest.
But then my phone’s notification
makes it impossible to grip tight
and the vest vanishes.
I plunge back out of sight.
I seize the wheel and scream
among the plodding caravan.
Then I imagine my students’ faces
and try to form Monday’s plan
to comfort them even a little.
What should I say?
wasn’t built in a day?
The singer’s poignant note
pulls me back from my edge.
They’re kids. I’m their teacher.
“We are moved so we stay moving”
I’ll say with a poignant smirk.
“So take out the reading
and let’s get to work.”
Yet once I get home,
I don’t think about what lesson I’ll try.
I get through the door, clutch my daughter
Sean Riley is a teacher and writer from Seattle, Washington. His works on school integration and teaching during crises have been published in The Stranger and Cagibi.