Teaching Poetry, Baca’s “I am Offering This Poem”

This month I am teaching poetry to both my ninth and tenth graders.  I love teaching poetry; the language is so rich and has so much to offer.  I discover new and beautiful poems every year as I teach this unit.  Here’s one I’d like to share.  It was written by Jimmy Santiago Baca, a Hispanic writer out of Los Angeles who began writing during a stay in prison.  (He’s very charismatic; I heard him speak in 2005 at the UCLA Writing Project fall conference)
I Am Offering This Poem

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat,
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in the winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure it as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or a hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe,

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and it’s all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
remember,

I love you.

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