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Photo courtesy of Sara Kurfeß


Graduation Day


A teacher learns not to expect.

So when a student gifts you his last cigarette

you press it between your fingers 

like a pearl harvested from cradling seas.


He swaggers toward the gate for the last time

parading sun-blessed cap, billowing gown

hair stiff, aiming straight up

to stray smoky clouds.


You wonder whether he would indeed 

walk away from the next boy 

who crosses his path

ponder from afar the shores

where he might find breath

the scents and songs he might inhale 

forging the fire in his breast.


When a student gifts you his last cigarette

for days you’ll gaze down

cradle it in your palms 

held open like giant mollusk wings.

By Anna Teresa Slater

Celestial Orbs

Celestial Orbs

You carry all your students

on your shoulders―a conclusion 

shared. She kneads my back, 

protrusions like budding boulders 

nesting on the nook of my neck. 

Her palms press down hard, a seer 

by touch, her fingers attuned to sub-skin 

stress. Rub them out, I beg, like a scratch-

map; she shakes her head. Honey, you can’t 

expect me to erase your life’s work 

in an hour. I insist, her thumbs 

obey. As expected, I am dead

tired, dented, frayed. Are they gone? 

Yes, she laughs. I cry, touched by the titan lie. 

By Anna Teresa Slater



I dare their pens:

Write questions you hope to explore

―of art, of beauty, of ethics, of death.

Am I an angel?


whispers from the front row, a boy 

of typical slouch, of angled swag.


I take a step back, offer parley to the pause,  

for the possible piercing of teenage smirk or

teacher taunt.   


Am I an angel? he repeats, matter-of-fact. 

I am not mistaken. I am prepared for all else: 

fate, freedom, other dimensions. Yes, yes, yes. 

But this. He looks up at me from his seat.


I need more time, last night’s shots of

single malt dance like blinking targets on my chest.


I look now at his answer. There still

it stares like a bull stalking a red cape:

Like a test I have 

to take to get through heaven’s door.

 Am I an angel?

By Anna Teresa Slater

Anna Teresa Slater is a high school drama and English teacher from Iloilo, Philippines, and a postgraduate student in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Her work is published or forthcoming in Channel Lit Mag, Ghost City Review, Shot Glass Journal, The Literary Nest, Door is a Jar, Song of Eretz, Nine Muses Poetry, and more, and in anthologies by Kasingkasing Press and Hedgehog Poetry Press. 

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