What My Students Teach Me


Federico
tells me it's too cold here
but some choice.
You go out one morning,
the car hood's open a little;
three sticks of dynamite
and this is the third time.
In Salvador you take the hint:
you leave.

Ginny Fung
writes of the love
of her and her husband.
The first English she learned
was curses.
Those faces
she could read
in any language.

Cyrous
on the most profound moment of his life
writes a vague tribute
to world harmony and brotherhood.
When I question it,
he says,
I am a Baha'i from Iran.
This is for my friends,
not wanting me to seem foolish.
I nod dumbly as he explains
he was made to watch
as the blades fell
and their heads dropped in the street.

Leong Hiu
who now signs her name Lisa
has not seen her brother
since the night
the pirates boarded in the China Sea,
tells me she likes the winter here
because when she wakes
all the white stars are lying on the ground.

Shatha
tells the class
I am visiting my mother after work
babysitting my sister's children
when the sirens went.
We hid under the table
covering my nieces with our bodies–
as the bombs fell the teapot shattered.
Everything crashing, it seemed forever.
You were watching that night
on you televisions: Desert Storm.

Dan
says it began in April.
Two million of us sir,
in the Square, I was so proud to be Chinese.
I was a reporter
when the official came to the office
and said, no more stories!
I was so angry I quit.
When the tanks came in June
–we ran, hearing the screams,
too scared to look back.
Now I can no longer write, I study computers.

Fardad
speaks of a trip to the front with his friend
who asked to drive.
We stopped for water.
I was gone a minute.
When I came out,
a missile–there was nothing left.
At the court martial, his mother screamed at me,
I should have been in his place.

And me,
what do I know.
I am a man on the beach
where the boats come in.


Bruce Hunter, Two O'Clock Creek: Poems New and Selected, Oolichan Books, 2010.