Posted by: Sara Carbone on: February 13, 2012
B was one of those smart, jaded kids who was â€śnot living up to his potential.â€ť He was a likable young man with real depth and strength to him, having survived some things a teen shouldn’t have to. And B hated school. Was bored stiff in class, blew off his schoolwork and lacked the skills to pull his grades out of the cellar. Our tutoring sessions were often a kind of dance – me bobbing around, waving workbooks and lists at him while he shifted restlessly in his seat, doodling or sneaking texts on his phone.
But lately he had began to listen a bit, seemed to be taking in some of what I was saying. So one night I pulled out Jorge Luis Borges’s poem Paradiso, XXXI, 108.Â I scooted my chair over to where he slouched and began to read this graceful, erudite poem aloud. Every few lines I paused to discuss what was going on, to ask B his opinion of what he heard, of what he thought Borges was telling us. We spoke of faith and dreams, of terrible loss and the idea “that God may be all of us.” We moved slowly through the piece, holding each exquisite phrase up to the light.
And he got it.
B’s face changed as he realized the power of the work. His body stilled and he looked at me in something like wonder. He told me that what weâ€™d read was â€śincredible and powerfulâ€ť and that it had â€śblown his mind.â€ť B was rocked to his core in that moment.Â For the very first time a poem had reached across time and space and touched him.
I drove home that cold February night wrapped up in the warmth that comes from knowing I had been a part of helping a young person find the beauty in learning.