Foreign Exchange

On a field trip that summer, we were
a group of exchange scholars from 47
countries, many of us still blinking from
jet lag. Yellow school buses spilled us 
out on the lawn in front of a marble 
memorial in the capital. In the drizzle, 
I didn't wonder about whose statues 
sat on pedestals and if, looking down 
on us, to them we might resemble a slow-
moving cluster of insects from all over 
the world. I was more curious about
the names of trees whose branches
arced overhead as if inviting us to make
a parade of our bodies under their wild
yet formally jubilant light, but no one
could tell me for sure. Later in the evening,
after a picnic on the grass while John
Williams conducted the orchestra 
onstage at Wolf Trap, the linguist 
from Guatemala showed us a barred owl
he'd whittled with a penknife, on a twig 
he'd picked up in the grass.

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