A few months ago I had the chance to teach poetry to a group of incarcerated teens.

Today was the reception and opening of the display of the student work at the de Saisset museum at Santa Clara university. The program, Arts Connect, is sponsored by the Arts Council Silicon Valley and connects local artists with at-risk youth hopefully showing them how art can empower them to make changes in their lives.

I am reposting their poem for Poetry Friday because I am so proud of them, of the work they did and I am so happy to have been a part of this program in what could be the very last year. There has been a sudden push to cut the budget for this program.

has a beautiful life to it.

You sound like happiness, sadness, love
taste like fresh strawberries
and feel like soft skin, sandpaper, a brick wall.

Poetry is all the colors of the rainbow
and smells like freedom, incarceration, a sexy girl.

Oh poetry, you drive me crazy.

You make me want to scream, to feel, to heal.

You look like sunshine and moonlight in the city.

Poetry is feelings on paper.

I have been asked to join the Arts Council at the Board of Supervisors meeting next week in order to help convince the board of the importance of this program. I will have one minute to speak on behalf of the Arts Connect program and the impact I was able to make with the challenged youth in my class.

It is I who will be challenged.

How do you capture, in just one minute, the sight of a boy pouring his heart out on the page with no one standing over him telling him he is dumb for doing it? How do you show someone the pride of a young man standing up to read his poem to the class, a poem that exposes the deepest hurting part of himself? How do you tell an audience that the simple act of me showing up every session, no matter what they said or did or tried to do to push me away, that my showing up showed them that someone cared which meant that they were worth caring about, worth saving?

How do I show them the heart of these boys who had never written poetry before, who tried so hard at something so new, and who succeeded beyond my expectations?

What would you say if you had one minute to prove the importance, the impact of art on at-risk youth?