Poem of the Week, by Derek Sheffield

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Write about a powerful moment in your childhood, a time when you felt seen, heard, acknowledged and powerful,  for exactly who you were.

This was the ten-minute writing prompt a few weeks ago in my Writing for Children and Young Adults class. Memories conjured themselves up around the room. A boy known as the Fat Kid watched a Chris Farley sketch and ran to the mirror to begin practicing comedy. A shy girl, quiet and overshadowed by the big sister who had always scoffed at her taste in music, received a package filled with homemade mix tapes of classic rock songs put together by that same big sister’s college roommate, with a note that began, “So I hear you like classic rock. And so do I.” 

And a little girl watching her older sister perform a play, in Hmong, the language that she had grown up speaking and hearing only in the safety of her family home, and felt for the first time “that I was at a place that wasn’t home, but that in my heart felt like home.” 

I listened to these stories and felt like crying. It takes so little, in the life of a child. A single moment can either take away their power or infuse them with it, as in this beautiful poem below.

 

First Grade, by Derek Sheffield
Sunday afternoon and she looks up
from her drawing, wants to know
if I know the game where you put
your head down and thumb up

until someone picks you.
“Yes,” I say, across the room and half-
listening. “‘Well, I always pick my friends
but they never pick me.” I pause

in the middle of a sentence.
“Who are your friends?”
“Everyone!” she says, as if I had asked
one plus one or the color of the sky.

Sunlight draws a skewed rectangle
across the floor. “I see,” I say
and let my notebook close, seeing
children in rows, heads on desks,

her big ears poking through sandy hair,
listening for a step or a breath, “Yes,
I remember that game.” And I stand
and walk over to find the outline of her hand

plunging through a white sky.    

 

 

​For more information on​ Derek Sheffield, please click here

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