The Teacher

by Zachary B. Johnston

the stretch bone cab hauls
us fast from our swamp
down a pocked rain-wetted
highway to Ebenezer cemetery.
We pass her yard. The cypress
there stands straight, but the
house she kept sags on its blocks,
the weight of dying just settled
in its boards. My last visit, she
could still climb stairs. Her nurse
gone home, I sat on the bed’s edge.
Her radiation burns like Chicago,
walking to the bakery on St. Paul
or outside the door for a smoke.
I asked what did she expect from
dying? She said it’s uncomplicated;
we’re like the lilacs, we odor a while
then aches our burden stem. That’s
chemo talking. The car stops. We’re all
her students, come to learn this lesson.
We brace open the hatch and draw
her out of the long car.


Zachary B. Johnston has lived his entire life in Northeast Louisiana; born in Jonesboro, he currently resides in West Monroe, a stone’s throw from the banks of the Ouachita River. Currently, he is pursuing an MA at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His work is deeply rooted in place, the tragic and the Southern persona.

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  • Chris Hill / April 19, 2017

    Deep! Love it.

  • John A. Lynn / April 19, 2017

    “The Teacher” by Zachary B. Johnston

    This poem’s imagery, without any of my simple commentary, defines the bitterness and sting that the death of any loved one leaves us holding within. New wounds were opened, and a new emptiness was felt as I read and reread this dark but touching poem.

  • Linda Phillips / April 25, 2017

    This poem is very touching and reaches deep within my soul.