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.