The Yale Professor

(off of prompt #1)

By Sandy Lender


“First of all, it’s self-published,” he denounced

lifting warmed brandy to his leather lips.

His captured audience twittered obediently

while we waited for his second point of derision

watching his Adam’s apple bob above his pleated ascot


Another question from a worshiper

Another answer thick with sarcasm

Like a layer of fondant

Meant to cover a gouge

In an already leaning tier


When I could stand the sharpness of his barbed tongue no longer,

I led my friend away from the mini scene of carnage

Took Lakita to an adjoining room

Where women spoke of Michelangelo

and refractive colors in beach sunsets,

where I doubt the professor would mar his polished loafers.


I patted her wrinkled hand

Smoothed her pleated hair

Offered her champagne from tall glasses

Spoke of her successes

(of which she has many)

My reassurances—piled, towering, toppling off my side of the scale

Still weighed less than the single judgment of the orator in the room next door

And this frustrated me.

Why could she not see…

Her worth

Her value

Her perfection

Cannot be dismissed by a professor who doesn’t know her struggles

Cannot be judged by an institution mired in supremacy since its founding

Cannot be ignored by any of us eating peaches in our older years


Lakita thanked me—with her usual stoicism—for accompanying her that night

And we went out into the humid streets

Where fog wrapped ’round our feet

And we vowed to write about the reception

(Whether our words made it to the Yale University Press or not)

One thought on “The Yale Professor

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have never read a better description of the pain of sarcasm. Did you know “sarcasm” comes from the Greek word, SARCAZO*, that means “to tear flesh” — no wonder it stings!
    (*I’m not sure I spelled the Greek word correctly, but I remember the fact very distinctly.)

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