A poor grade on an easy exam. His written English, clumsy, his few spoken words, lumbering. But his face is still there in the back row when the others start skipping, big glasses, big bones, a broad brown face. He writes a bit, stares, never nods—listens. Listens so hard, the crickets outside could stage a symphony, or more to his taste, a metal concert. Probabilities blossom. Papers start making sense, words an awkward soil that ideas sprout through. Next exam, all scores are down—his are up. A shy fire sneaks into his eyes. Every class now, eve of break, optional reviews, he’s there scribbling, bolt upright. Sits in the second row and blows away the final. I don’t see him again to congratulate him, or even to apologize for expecting so much less.


“Gerardo” originally appeared in For a Better World 2011: Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists, Ghosn Publishing, 2011.