After a day of immersion,
I said,
Tell me about a poem you liked.

His hand shot up.
He wanted to talk
about something he read–a first.

He said,
I like Tupac’s poems;
he writes
about having no one to help him
through the tough times
except God,
and I understand what he feels.

The class was silent
from the boy’s sixth grade wisdom,
a boy who usually plays too much
and does too little.

At the end of class,
he asked,
to check out the book;
he’s never asked that before.

Told him no,
I needed that book
in the other classes.

Can I read it at lunch?
he asked.

I gave him the book.
At lunch, he read.
No loudness.
No playing.
Little eating.
He left this world
for a moment.
Connecting to another,
his feet resting on the adjacent bench.
Eyes transfixed on the page,
Getting to know Tupac.

Tears in my eyes,
I watched him becoming
a reader, maybe for the first time.

At the end of the day,
I gave him the book
and a small sketch pad.
told him to read the book
and mix his sketches with words,
to write me a poem
with art in it.

This way, I told him
he could put down his struggles
in his usual form–art
but  could add words, too,
like Tupac.

This way, I told him
his struggles would lose power
over him,
and he could overcome them.

Today, he came to me,
shyly handing me his poems,
bearing his soul.
Wanting better for himself.

Tears in my eyes,
I watched him becoming
a writer, maybe for the first time,
working out his problems on the page,
and seeing himself moving on.

Tomorrow, who knows.
Maybe he’ll win that poetry contest,
And he’ll see himself becoming
a winner, maybe for the first time.

Today I sent him home
with a Langston Hughes’ poem
and a poetry contest entry form.


6 thoughts on “Becoming

  1. Oh my gosh – look what he's done!!! What you've allowed to blossom! I read every word hanging on to the previous one, hoping he would get to take the book, hoping he'd take the challenge to write. Wow. This kid is amazing. And you are a blessing to him. I can't wait to read your other slices.


  2. That's beautiful. I first heard Tupac sing when my adult children were pre-teens. I cried when I heard him sing Thugs Mansion… I could feel his pain and how alone he felt. The above piece of writing touches my heart also. What privilege it is to read this SOL. Thank you.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I just found you blog today…this is a wonderful piece…both yours and your student's. The lines about seeing himself as a reader, writer, winner for the first time really got to me. I'm glad he has you. Someone who believes.


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