Contextual Education

Derek Sheffield

Wenatchee, Washington

“He wouldn’t make us like monkeys!”
says a student in the front row.
“‘Cause he made us in his image.”
She laughs and turns to check
for smiles and nods. The professor
stands by the whiteboard
where he has written the word
adaptation. He is thinking of all
the lessons, like similes,
that have appeared in black ink
across this space,
and that have, like species,
gone. He cannot help
but see her in the church van
on the field trip, pretending
she doesn’t know she’s the pretty one
who doesn’t know exactly
what’s happening inside the boy
beside her when she tosses
her pink-streaked hair and blows
a word across his ear. In the room’s silence,
she shows them what she means
by turning her hands into big ears
and wagging her head side to side.
They wonder if they are some sort
of experiment as their professor
turns off the lights and clicks
a chimp’s face onto the screen.
No one says a thing
at the god looking back
from those brown, sad eyes.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Derek Sheffield’s book of poems is Through the Second Skin. His poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review and The Georgia Review, and have been given special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He teaches poetry and ecological writing at Wenatchee Valley College and is the poetry editor of

The Southern Review

Spring 2018

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Louisiana State University

Co-Editor & Poetry Editor
Jessica Faust

The Southern Review is one of the nation’s premiere literary journals. Hailed by Time as “superior to any other journal in the English language,” we have made literary history since our founding in 1935. We publish a diverse array of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by the country’s—and the world’s—most respected contemporary writers.

The Southern Review … represents everything that is good in the world of literary publication. Their dedication to aesthetic quality has been the gold standard in literary publication for over seventy-five years.”
—James Lee Burke

“A leading literary quarterly.”
The New York Times

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.