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  • Lena Drake

An ESL Program in Toledo, OH

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

For Claudia and Eleni--

Toledo, Ohio is nothing

more than flat. Outside

the city sat a school

for learning English.

17 and 18 year old

girls found themselves

squeezed into plastic

desks staring at chalk

boards with simple

words. English words.

The girls decided

they would be

friends, no matter

how it ended, the

friendship or the school.

The word of the day

was accomplishment,

which was hard

to pronounce or understand.

They didn't learn much

English, or much of

anything at all. But they

did learn that if you

are Greek and your friend

is Mexican and neither

of you speaks English

there's always, well

it's not much, but there's

always drawing.

Charades was never

a parlor game in

a parlor or in the

ESL program. And when

you left the school, or

the earth, and you lost

touch because: landlines,

or cancer, you would

bump into each other again

in Dearborn, Michigan

at a restaurant neither

of you chose. Or at a

funeral 35 years later

where you could understand

the English, but not much

of anything else. Landlines

made sense. Cancer

does not. Other lessons

learned included: leftovers

are more important than

clothes, but less important

than dessert. And make

sure to get the full

name of your friend's

boyfriend, in case

he's the cashier you

have a crush on.

Mexicana and The Greek

were destined to

meet. They survived

a land that promised

more than it had.

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1 Comment

Aug 06, 2021

i would love to hear you read your poetry sometime

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