Based on a discussion with adult ELL students
at the Saint Paul Jewish Community Center

To begin again after seventy, to change

from fluent Amharic, Ukrainian, Russian
to I speak a little English,

from I read Lermontov, Pushkin, Shevchenko
to I don’t have a lot of words,

from teaching Tolstoy, Goethe, Schiller
to learning the present: progressive, perfect;

from head of biology, teacher of math
to student, immigrant, grandparent, stranger,

from Addis Ababa, Ashgabat, Belarus,
from Russian army was in my country,

from miles of sand and blistering heat
to the wet, crystal sheen of a blizzard,

to Burnsville, Macy’s, the Mississippi,
to lakes like Como and Phalen,

to I use the pool and do aerobics,
to I know a lot of American news,

and I would like to brag
about my work as volunteer,
I called my brother in San Francisco,
I hear Russian music on cell phones,

from I lost a lot of things in my country,
to I had my family with me on Sunday.

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