Poetry & Prose

On Learning

we had an American
English teacher from Texas
in Primary 3

before I had the words
to describe what Woody
from Toy Story was

when I did not know the Chinese
word for jeans
meant cowboy pants

she taught us that the capital
of this Lone Star
state was Austin

and talked about the other
jumbo cities: Houston,
Dallas, San Antonio

in Primary 4 when I scored
full marks on the mock
mathematics exam

my teacher scribbled
stupendous! next to
the number 100 in red

I stared in confusion
thinking the word meant
stupid, brainless

and unbelievable as it was—
or at least most Americans would think—
that we had end-of-year exams starting from

the ripe age of
Primary One but that is the prime
time to cultivate “work ethic”

alas I know nothing about
the Wild West nor

nor what Americans think
when they talk or act in
the way they do

we speak the same speech
but it always feels like
different dialects