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ESL

I LEAVE at HOME
concerns about split infinitives,
dangling participles and
subject-verb disagreements

and the eye that spots
from across the room
and before anyone asks,
misplaced commas
and breaches of capitalization rules.

And Dickens. Yes. He stays back, too.
We will not have page-long paragraphs
comprised of a single sentence
with a dozen dependent clauses,
much as I may love them.
We will not be searching for antecedents.

No, this is seats-of-the-pants
language training,
where, when a refugee learns to say
“Bathroom, where?”
“In pain, me. Go see doctor.”
“How much?”
we hear success.
The finer points will be tended to down the road somewhere.

This is not work for elitists.
Sticklers for form need not apply.
Lovers of people, yes.


This poem stems from a prompt from TSPoetry. The challenge was to write a poem that catalogs a variety of words from a specific field.

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An Old Friend Asks for An Update

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A FRIEND
I’ve lost touch with
finds an old Christmas card
and writes to ask for an update on the family.

Based on her questions,
I calculate the card to be from 7 years ago.

I’ll hasten to let her know
Wally’s still here following the Mets,
content with a kind word,
a garden to tend
and anything served on wide egg noodles.
I’ll update about everyone’s location
and that Ma left us in 2011.

The rest, I’ll figure out.

SHE’S THE KIND OF FRIEND
I can be straightforward with,
the kind who,
despite distance and time,
we always pick up right where we left off,

and I consider her asking
a gift,
an invitation
to try again the telling,

same way,
after praising a refugee’s ABCs,
I erase the marker board
and say “Again” over and over
until they have it,
until there are no stray marks
or b’s that look like d’s,

until, at last,
they have something really useful to them.

 

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While Praying, I am Reminded

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WHILE PRAYING for the world,
I am reminded
of someone
I need to make peace with.

And what does it say,
if while offering your gift,
you remember?
To first go and be reconciled.

I prefer to stay and pray,
but from the moment I get the reminder
all my words ring hollow.

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Notes:
Prayers of the People event
Matthew 5:24
mural by Louisville artist Liz Richter, used with permission

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