From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Alma/My Soul

Alma—a little girl/young lady
whose name means “soul,”
touches my own soul with
her calm yet tenacious spirit.
Indian girl who must help
provide for her family, the
mission grounds her storefront.
She helps me for hours, though
we interrupt the work with a
few bouts of silent volleyball,
bumping a colorful beach ball
we find. She does not forget
her role and that her mother
will ask who bought what for
how much. As we finish she
says, “Now come see the dolls”
I buy.

Alma—silent child with soft
but piercing eyes, takes it all
in, saying so little but learning
so much. What do my actions
teach you, mi’jita? I hope it is
good. I hope it serves you
well. I hope I reflect the One
who brought me here, and who
made our lives touch in this

Alma—I watch your mother
teach you how to weave, as
she makes you repeat tedious
first missteps. I observe you
slowly, then more quickly,
cause colors to dance and
change on your tiny loom.
I study and think I understand.
I want to guide your hands
when you study the pattern
you are to follow anxiously.
Suddenly, I realize I have
thought too simplistically. I
give up trying to comprehend,
while you have mastered it.

Alma—who first refuses, then
after some thought, decides to
let me take her picture: a close-up,
so close I wonder if I am
wrong to cross this invisible
cultural line, even with her
permission. Alma—who later
sees another picture of her
Tarahumara face and dress
on a computer screen and
runs screaming from the room
three times before she finally
accepts an inkjet color print
of herself, passing from the
hand of the age of technology
to the hand of nomadic life
in an instant.

Alma—who lets me hug her one
day, and hold her close, who
accepts the blame for holding on
too long when it is really me
who can’t let her go. Same
child who refuses to hug me or
even look at me on the day I am
to leave, but when I speak her
pain out loud, lets me hold her,
turning in to me with tears that
become my own.

Perhaps one day, Alma,
my own soul will be silent long
enough to learn from you, too.

Heather J. Kirk

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