ESL Class: Grammar Lesson
four stamps depicting literacy

Her thin wrist is poised over the page,
with painstaking attention to the words,
meaning and sound
of the discordant new language
practiced with the person in the next seat
from another color and country
whose skin exudes unfamiliar spices.

He used to be a teacher
in what used to be Russia
She used to have a farm
in Cambodia before she came
carrying only an iron tea kettle.
Those two over there --
neighbors in the same town
of the so-called "former" Yugoslavia.

This is a classroom filled with used-to-be's,
a hard concept to teach in English.
They need it though
to explain who they once were.

A Somali woman veiled head to shoe
asks a question, pronounces "used to
with three syllables instead of two.
As he shifts in his chair to attend,
the Buddhist monk forms a fluid arc of saffron.
His robes hang out below the frayed wool coat
he wears during this hard winter.
On his feet hiking boots, laces open,
chafe rough against bare legs.

Diane Pecoraro
MN Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West,Roseville, MN 55113

Diane Pecoraro is a bureaucrat by day and writer of verse during the dark hours;
more about Diane

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