Today, I spoke to a group of 78 third graders at Maxwell Elementary School in Lexington, KY. I was a bit nervous as it has been years since I've been in front of a classroom. Not since the days of working with the wonderful Community Word Project and teaching in the Bronx, had I spent so much time with an audience of young ones. And we had a blast. My dear friend who invited me wanted me to read some of my own work, but because much of my work is geared towards adults, I decided to write a poem specifically for these students. It's a children's poem exploring what it's like to become a poet. It's been a long time since I wrote anything for children, but I found great joy in the process. Here it is below. Thank you to the 3rd Graders of Maxwell and their wonderful teachers for an inspirational day of words and warm place to escape the snow.
For Maxwell 3rd Graders
When I was a big-mouthed kid
with so much of my life left to go,
there were so many things I wanted
to feel, to see, to know.
I wondered about the birds I saw
crisscrossing the endless sky.
I wondered how it would feel someday
to open my feather-less self and fly.
I thought about the bully bee
with its painful, throbbing sting.
I wondered if I could ever make
such a small and powerful thing.
I thought about the darkness
and the giant moon in the trees,
how sweet that light would feel
glistening on my own leaves.
I wanted to be incredible,
create rhythm (and sometimes rhymes).
I wondered what my dreams
would look like, broken into lines.
What I wanted was to say something,
but I didn’t know where to start,
so I walked out in to an empty field
and tried to quiet my too-loud heart.
And when I listened long enough,
there came a rumbling of distant words.
They were coming out of nowhere,
like a booming flock of wayward birds.
Oh how I was thunderstruck!
Oh how I welcomed the unknown!
I knew then, that all I wanted
was to make my life a poem.