Fifth Grade Lost and Found: A Poem on Thoughts & Prayers When a Nation Is in Need of So Much More

Kendi K
Aug 20, 2020 - 5:55

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Fifth grade was the year I learned that I live in America. It was the year I learned what this country stood for and what it meant to be a citizen of it.

I was in fifth grade when I learned what a mass shooting was, and the fear of one began, a fear that only grew as I did. This was the year of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when a gunman opened fire and murdered 20 kids and six adults. 

Since then, I have watched so many mass shootings take place, be reported on, mourned by politicians with “thoughts and prayers” while they deny the systemic change that could prevent these tragedies. 

My awareness increased the year of fifth grade and somehow, I wasn’t as young anymore. I underwent an irreversible change, did all of the growing up the kids killed in that elementary school would never get to. 

I lost a lot of my young self in fifth grade, and I wrote this poem to try and capture that loss. 

—-

5th Grade Lost and Found

5th grade felt like lost legos between minivan seats, syrup stains on sweater sleeves, watching the world in a blur through car window back seats.

5th grade grade felt like the sharp edge of new book pages, ink stains on tiny fingertips, waiting for recess when the sky was mine again.

That day of 5th grade, 
we ended early, barely past the morning, everyone was sent home. 
Teacher had tears in her eyes, I’d never seen a grown up cry, she gave us all hugs before letting us go.

That day of 5th grade, 
President Obama was on the TV, looking pale inside the lit screen, his voice was low and shaking, he was crying too.

That day of 5th grade,
Sandy Hook Elementary School also let out early.
They also had kids around my height, 
who also had blue backpacks and bright eyes, 
who also played with legos 
and got syrup on their sweaters 
and felt the newness of books 
and chewed on the end of multi-colored pens 
and watched the world rush by in a blur and waited for the time when the sky was theirs.

They were kids just like me
which meant, I was just like them
which meant, I too could die by a bullet in a school, 

in my 5th grade classroom.

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