Hunger Visited My Classroom
Hunger visited my classroom every morning during my first year as a teacher.
Though it feels like forever ago, I never forget his blue eyes
Nor his unkempt shaggy, blond hair.
He masqueraded as an eight-year-old boy
Dressed each day in the same ragged, filthy Power Rangers t-shirt.
The rings of dirt around his neck,
And the grime hiding deep under his fingernails
Were his only companions.
His classmates ostracized him,
As they called him Pig Pen after the character in Charlie Brown.
Malnourishment attempted to hide
Behind a mountain of synonyms:
Thin, skinny, underweight, boney, scraggy, scrawny, beanpole -
The list seems endless
Like the hunger creeping continually around this boy’s belly.
Hunger tried to stifle me; however, no matter how late his bus arrived,
I always made sure he received his bag of breakfast
Containing French toast sticks with syrup that never stayed contained
As I did my temper toward his constantly sticky desk.
I knew I could never defeat hunger as he grinned at me each morning,
But I could put a dent in him and
Make sure he knew I wasn’t going to take it easy on him.
Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, Sour Balls, and, my personal favorite,
Werther’s Original Caramels filled the glass fishbowl on my desk.
I never missed an opportunity to reward any positive action or answer.
I called upon him at every opportunity to help with mundane tasks:
Passing out papers, sweeping the floor, walking papers down the hall to the office.
The smile on that boy’s face lite up my heart
As he enjoyed whatever treat I gave him.
On the last day of school, I gave him an entire bag of Jolly Ranchers, his personal favorites.
The following year, Mrs. P, his new teacher, and I greeted Hunger
As he tried to slip silently into school on a brisk September morning.
I handed him an entire bag of Jolly Ranchers, and his smile nearly broke my heart.
As I watched Mrs. P escort him down the hall and into her classroom,
I whispered to myself, “Not today, Hunger, not today. Not on my watch.”
Link to the video of the poem reading:
John L. Dutton II has over twenty years of teaching experience ranging from elementary school to high school. The last fifteen of those years he has taught language arts at the middle school level. Since 2013, John has actively been involved with two writing groups, Write by the Rails (WbtR) and the Prince William Poet Laureate Circle. He is a life member of the Virginia Writers’ Club and the Poetry Society of Virginia. In January 2015, he created Spilled Ink, an open-mic night that meets on the fourth Friday of every month to celebrate the written word.
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!