Posts Tagged ‘immigration’


On the final day of the ESL series, I’m happy to share a picture of the Chicago students meeting on Zoom (a few were absent).  What a wonderful group! I thank each one of them for sharing their stories, hopes and struggles openly and honestly. You’ve given me (and surely my readers) cause for reflection and inspiration. Thanks also to my big sister Ceci for collaborating on this project and for being a great teacher to her students and, as ever, to me.


Merci, gracias, 감사합니다, Спасибо, ありがとうございました, 谢谢. (Apologies if my translation is off!)






 by Lin from China


My Chinese isn’t enough.

I remember how I was happy

staying with my friends,

enjoying each time we got together,

the same values, same hobbies, same goals.




But that was in China.

Now I am in America.

And I’m learning English.

Back at my hometown

my friends attend a variety of events,

hang with one another.

But I stayed at my new home and felt dumb, alone.

I registered for many classes to learn more.

My husband always encourages me.

He said, you’re excellent!

Follow your heart!

I’m more confident now,

Inspired by Chicken Soup words,

Inspired by the understanding of my friends,

my parents, my tutors.

So, I am getting used to living in America

I push myself to walk out to face the challenge,

to be positive.

For if I stop trying, I will be depressed

when my friends need my ideas.


** Chinese for “Good friends are pursuing their ideain different places.”







by Jenny from Korea


My Korean isn’t good enough,

I remember how I’d grin

Listening to my little one,

Her jokes, her whines, her tricks.

Teasing each other


*엄마가어른이니까어린이인나랑놀아줘야지. 안그래?


But that was in Korea.

Now my daughter goes to an American high school.

She chats in English. At night she Face-Times with friends, laughing.

I listen by her door and feel excluded, alone.

I turn on the radio when I drive, I turn on the radio when I cook,

My husband laughs at my accent.

I’m embarrassed at not understanding what others say,

Sometimes I read the Bible line-by-line, recording my voice and listening and listening again.

Repeating again and again.

For if I stop trying, I will be deaf

When my grandchildren need my help.


Korean for, “Mom, since you are an adult, you are supposed to play with me, aren’t you?”





by Natalia from The Ukraine


My Ukrainian isn’t enough.

I remember how I laughed and chatted with my friends.

I understood their jokes, their songs, their thoughts.


            І щоразу це були неймовірні зустрічі!  *


But that was in Ukraine.

Now I live in America with my husband and children.

My new friends are here.

They are so different. We speak different languages,

We have different cultures, values and faith . . .

We have different childhood memories.

Often, I do not have enough words to tell about something.

It is difficult to describe my feelings.

I cannot be open with my new friends.


I work on my English every day,

I want to remember more new words,

I want to understand more. . .

For if I stop trying, I will be deaf when my friends need my help.


*Ukrainian for “Every time it was an incredible meeting.”




Teacher’s Note

These Imitation Poems express the deepest and most profound feelings of my students as they strive to make new roots in a new country with a new language. The poem Elena, by Pat Mora was the inspiration. Writing poetry is an unfamiliar and challenging task for most of us, but writing poems in a second language is even more difficult. I applaud their efforts and congratulate them on challenging their minds and thank them for sharing their personal struggles of learning English while trying to make a new life here as they search for their “second soul.” The poetic images of floating alphabet letters, blurry worlds, birthday songs that are no long uproariously sung, and so many more touch my heart. I am so proud of their  determination and persistence to never stop trying, like Elena.


Ceci Greco


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My eighth grade year was the Bicentennial year, and to celebrate our class put on a play. Our ever-enthusiastic music teacher Mrs. Enright put together a musical revue of U.S. history. The only part of the play I remember was singing the give-me-your-tired-your-poor portion of Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus.” I can still sing it today, every note and every word. I thought it was beautiful then and I still do, the way the song builds to that grand last line: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (You can hear it here.)


We’ve come a long way from the golden door. These days I’d be singing, “I lift my lamp beside the silver cage.” Or as a host on Fox News put it, “walls made of chain link fences.”


I spent the afternoon driving around looking for chain link fences to post a bunch of poems, quotes and song lyrics I hadn’t used from the last go-round with a hot-button immigration issue. Surprising how many facilities use chain link fence and in how many different ways. None of the fences I found, obviously, are as horrifying as the ones in the news.


I’ll post my pictures without much comment.


On the fence enclosing a high school football stadium I left the poem mentioned above, Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus,” which is the poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty.

poem is to the left of “Field is Closed” sign


The line “Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss to me” is lovely to sing when you know the melody.


On the fence of a dog park I left excerpts from “home” by Warsaw Shire


Warsan Shire is a British-Somali poet. You can hear her read the poem in its entirety here.


On the fence of an abandoned loading area for a big retail store I left Seamus Heaney’s “Mint.”


poem is above blue trash


“Like the discarded ones we turned against

Because we’d failed them by our disregard.”



On the fence surrounding the tennis courts of a local park I left words from Pope Francis.

poem is in center of picture and fence


The Pope delivered these words back in 2013 on the isle of Lampedusa which 166 African immigrants had drowned trying to reach.


On the fence surrounding a cemetery I left a portion of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”


Johnson wrote the song in 1900 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. (Listen here.)


On the fence of a school for disabled children I left William Stafford’s “Experiments.”


“I whine . . ./ when the wind carries what is out there/ too near the room where my comfort is.”


Finally, I left a selection from the gospel of Matthew on the fence surrounding a country club golf course.

poem is between trees on a pole


Jesus of Nazareth, the most famous of all asylum seekers.


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