We asked the group of about 20 at-risk youth, aged 11 to 14, a simple question. The answer had to be about themselves – not an object or another person.

What do you love about yourself?

This is a difficult question for experienced, adult writers. There I was, work shopping with a group of preteens and teenagers at Good Samaritan Community Services involved in a leadership development program, asking them to be both vulnerable and honest.

The program coordinator, Whitney Hunt, wanted the workshop to focus on encouraging self-love as the primary focus for this Valentine’s Day.  Each student was given the chance to read his or her poem to the class thus creating a sense of pride in their work.

The resulting poems from class which spanned over the last two weeks are nothing short of incredible.  In a society that is constant telling these kids they aren’t good enough, they found something to love.

I didn’t tell them they would be writing poems at first.  I could anticipate the dreary, glazed-over looks on their faces as I said the word, “poetry.” Instead, I told them to write their thoughts as lyrics or a how they would in a journal.  It was my first large-scale workshop and was taught alongside local poet Rayner Shyne. We read local poet’s pieces as examples and even forced ourselves to write our own. Here are the results:

Love poem to myself as told by Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf by Melanie Robinson

“Goodness, what a big mouth you have.  It’s loud during all the quiet parts of the movie.”
These lips are built to part ways, my dear
top to bottom,
All the better to speak as I whisper
or scream as I sing

“What big palms you have.  They look pretty cracked and sinking”
All the better to hold too long, but with purpose. These are the things flowers are made of.
They can arm wrestle a page till god is on the insides of my wrists
These palms make mistakes and can’t find anywhere to put them.

“What blue eyes you have.”
Etta James and Muddy Waters
All the better to hear you with, darling
They don’t remember how to see, but they can tell you a story – can recite it beginning to end, skipping stones along where ocean can’t touch the sky just yet
These eyes are kaleidoscopes flawed enough to keep em coming… and going.  And coming… and going

My favorite parts of myself are those someone once told me were wrong.
The way my left ear is slightly higher than my right.  The way I stutter sometimes when I’m nervous and the way my heart beats like a wheelbarrow for all the bad people and like a bottle rocket for all the good ones.
My heart is two sizes too small and still contains multitudes more than I tell it to.  It’s still learning how to be ok.

My fingers are too little.  Short and stubby, they find a way to make music anyway.

My teeth are too big, like an overweight love child of bark and bite, but they always dig into something like they mean it.  They can’t take a compliment, but they can smile big and burning till my cheeks make my eyes all little and squishy.

I love how ugly and beautiful are the exact same thing.
I love that my legs are good at both running and kicking, but standing still is a whole other story.
I love my shoulders for being strong enough to carry more than a Peruvian mule up the side of some mountain.

“Oh my, what silly words you have.”
All the better to love with, sweetheart.
All the better.

Poem by Vivica R.:

My eyes are tiny like baby ducks
My eyes remind me of Chinese people
My hands create big fists
My eyelashes are black as midnight without no moon and stars
My voice sounds like a bell that rings at a church
My voice is funny, sometimes like Alvin from Alvin in the Chipmunks
My eyelashes remind me of a camel from the cigarette pack
My dimples are so many and so funny they remind me of lots of clowns trying to fit in a car.

Poem by Rheane A.:

I love my hair because it’s brown and flowy like a river.
I love my eyes because they are beautiful, they sparkle, and they look like stars.
I love my shoes because I have all my fave brands.
I love my rings cause they are shiny, cute, and memories.
I love my sweater because I love the galaxy.
Love, Me.

Poem by Andrew I.:

I love my singing because it’s so sweet just like a pink peach.
I love my golden heart and I even told 100 people.
I love my brain because it drizzle’s ideas like a rain cloud.
I love my brown eye color because it’s like chocolate that costs one million dollars.
I love my face because it’s based on me!

Poem by Danielle E.:

I love my hair
That’s why Ms. Whitney uses a lot of Nair.
That’s not fair.
Because I love my hazel eyes
They glow up when I look into the sky.
So don’t be said because you don’t got Lebrons
It’s alright I got your frog out the pong.
I love my nephews because they make me fuze,
Just kidding I love the drink.
Most of all I love myself because it is the best of me.

Poem by Bianca P.:

I love my dimples because it is one thing that can be complimented on.
I love my dimple as if it is a bowl that I can’t climb out of.
It’s so deep.
I can see the light that is getting smaller and smaller.
I am throw into the dark.
There’s nothing I can see.
I hit the wall and fall as it is my dimple.
My dimple, that is what I love.
I love my dimple.
It is to where you look at it is as if you look far beyond into a tunnel that never ends.
I love my dimple.

Poem by Taylor C.:

This Valentine’s Day you should give yourself the hugs and kisses!
There are many things to love about yourself:
Eyes, hair, lips, voice, toes.
It doesn’t matter.
But what about the people you love?
Parents, your friends and your best friends.
Maybe even the boy or crush of your dreams.
It doesn’t matter.
Just as long as you love yourself it’s the best give you receive this Valentine’s Day.

Poem by Rueben A.:

I like my eyes because I can see you.
And it lets me see if you are mean or nice.
If I could not see you, you could be mean and I will not know.
It lets me see my favorite colors.
I like my eyes, they are awesome.
And they are my pride and joy.
And they sparkle in the night.

When It Comes to Poetry by Cesar F.:

When it comes to poetry
I don’t dislike it
I hate it
I never like it
The reason is because it ain’t me.
And for the people saying…
“Dude, you just made a poem”
Well it isn’t a poem it’s the truth.
The pure truth.
The ugly truth for poem lovers.
When it comes to poetry I think to myself…
Poetry ain’t me.

*Featured/top photo by Valentina_A


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Melanie Robinson

Melanie Robinson is a San Antonian writer, poet and musician who currently works as the content writer for Tribu, a digital marketing firm, and freelances for the Rivard Report, San Antonio Current and...