Teaching English in a Foreign Country

"Our nation has found herself confronted by a great problem 
dealing with a people who neither know nor understand 
the underlying principles of our civilization, yet who, 
for our mutual happiness and liberty, must be brought 
into accord with us ...  through the common schools."
~ Adeline Knapp, one of 530 American teachers
who arrived in the Philippines in 1901 aboard the 
USS Thomas; quoted in Jonathan Zimmerman's Innocents
Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century

A name is a bright line
you can follow. The tiniest

flying creature leads out
of a wood, winking. You have  

no recollection of how you 
got there, but you trust it

completely.  Commit  its 
outline to memory; understand

that certain precious things
have to be hidden for centuries 

in order for their shine 
not to blind unopened eyes.

Under the trees, in a make-
shift schoolroom, a teacher 

writes letters on a slate; but what
is a bat that isn't a body with wings

opening like a fan? What is a ceiling
that isn't a sky ornamented 

with unchanging directions? 
Wind bells a different diction,

passing beneath the honeysuckle.
Smoke from a wood fire carries

the grammar of our prayers from this
world to the afterlife. There, even if

our names have been changed, 
the ancestors will know how to call us.


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