Fifty Minute Son

Teachers touch many lives throughout the years, although sometimes it is the student who affects the teacher’s life. I recently ran across a poem I had written after such an occasion more than 20 years ago. Andre was a small, African-American sixth-grader where I taught art at a school for army dependents, the children of our military troops. Being in the military is a tough job, and the children have a hard time too. Some kids have both parents enlisted and deployed at the same time.

Andre was blossoming in art class. He definitely had talent and I encouraged him each day for the fifty minute period. Apparently, things were not going as well at home. Divorce was rearing its ugly head again in his family’s life, in addition to the normal Army stresses. I cried when Andre left. I ran after him in the hall as he was leaving to give him the portrait he had drawn in oil pastel that I had hung up in our “art show”. I have never seen him again.

Fifty Minute Son

Asymmetrical pastel eyes

Gaze up at their maker.

A flickering smile

As you add the final mark.

From hesitant hands

Emerges the gentle queen.

A royal portrait

To preside in the show.

In the sunlight of praise

Your slight self beams.

“You know, ¬†Andre’s leaving.”

I hear and can’t believe.

Another divorce,

Another town.

Number four dad

Not there any more.

The rolled-up portrait

Is clutched in one hand.

My last sight of you

My fifty minute son.

-Gwendolyn Rodriguez