Glenn G. Coats
It is warm for Halloween and this morning there is a light drizzle in the air. Senalda is here for an interview, but her husband, who is a foot taller is doing all the talking. I learn that Senalda has fourteen brothers and sisters in Costa Rica. I find out that families in Costa Rica don’t have the material things found in the United States, but they are happy and laugh well into the night. I know that Senalda does not like to cook. All this, I learn from the husband.
of a teacher’s bell
I need to understand what Senalda knows about English, how she speaks, the words (if any) she can read. I turn to the husband and tell him that he must remain quiet. My words send him to another office where his talking begins again. I cannot hear Senalda’s first few answers, then like a bird at dawn, her voice grows brighter, louder. With each word Senalda reads, her eyes brighten. She says his for had then stops, knowing something is not right. I teach her the word had and she runs her finger under it and says the word slowly. In her voice, had is beautiful. Senalda pronounces hirl instead of girl and I say that makes sense in her language. She reads a story then asks to read it once again.
The husband returns in time to correct Senalda. “It is girl not hirl,” he says. Senalda’s body grows rigid and still. A small light dims in her eyes.
late day sun
a stretched arm steadies
the stop sign