Who I Am: Poems by Kids

Chameleon / How I Know I’m Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine”


There is a chameleon in me I am stealthy
I like hiding in the night
I feel unstoppable
Me and the chameleon hide in shadows The shadows keep us hidden
I like wearing black
Shadows protect me from being seen I’m like camouflage
I like this feeling
I’ll never give it away

—Ethan from Del Valle Elementary


How I Know I’m Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine”

Because I’m mysterious and
I do things that are

unexpected. I don’t
sound like Lil’ Wayne.

I could be
as old as 1962.

I sound peaceful.

—Juan from Del Valle Middle School


Read more poetry by kids in this series.

Read more poetry on The Good Life.

—Photo credit:  engelcox/Flickr

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  1. Jess Stoner says:

    I asked Juan’s Badgerdog instructor, Brian Nicolet, about how Juan wrote the poem. (And I goofed! Juan goes to Dailey Middle School, not Del Valle–sorry about that! Dailey is in Del Valle, anyway). And here’s what he wrote:

    One never knows what kids will latch onto, especially when one is trying to teach those kids a thing as decidedly esoteric as poetry. I mean, I’m here to tell you. One of the best poems any of my students ever wrote resulted from an exercise that had virtually zero input from me. There was some preamble, sure, but basically I just asked my students to write about how they’re like or not like the thing in question. The students were rotating through stations and writing a piece for each: I remember one had a painting I pulled off my wall, one my grandfather’s wood carving of an American Buffalo. Things like that. And one had my iPod with Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” cued up. If I’m honest, I didn’t truly believe a melancholy jazz piece that can bring me to the verge of tears would affect any middle schoolers, but I guess a part of me hoped it might, or I wouldn’t have included it. You can’t ask a kid to juxtapose Duke Ellington with Lil’ Wayne; he just has to come to that on his own. But more than that I love how Juan plugs himself into a larger sense of history, and, purposefully or not, reappropriates a side of masculinity we don’t hear nearly enough.

    And as an added bonus, here’s what Juan had been listening to when he pulled the headphones from his ears, looked at me, and said: “I like this.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pkn6pJ7R8-I


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