A Poem on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Cotton Swabs
by Kim Burnham (Mar 2013)

Here come the bashful beginners

In their newly unpackaged lab coats,

Wielding cotton swabs like magic wands,

Hunting the halls and stairways in search of bacteria.


The unaccustomed passer-by might shy away,

Afraid the swabs might probe some body cavity.

But that comes later in the semester.

When only the lab partners have cause to fear.


The students avoid the toilets.

The custodian has ruined that experiment.

Unlike the stair rails, elevator buttons and door knobs

Which await, unspoiled by disinfectant.


They will spread their soiled swabs on discs of jelly

And come back for the next class early,

As they once awoke at dawn to see the Petunia seed

Break through the carefully watered earth.


Perhaps the swabs are magic after all,

Abracadabra and small spots appear,

Conjured as by countless wizards gone before,

In their own rite of passage.


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