Bandaids and Five Dollar Bills

Sharon M. Draper

My students wrote essays for homework this week.
The usual stuff for grade ten.
I asked them to write how they'd change the world
If the changing was left up to them.

His name was Rick Johnson;he was surly and shy.
A student who's always ignored.
He'd slouch in his seat with a Malcolm X cap.
Half-sleep, making sure he looked bored.

His essay was late - just before I went home.
It was wrinkled and scribbled and thin.
I thought to reject it...(Why do teachers do that?)
But I thanked him for turning it in.

"You can't cure the world," his essay began,
"Of the millions of evils and ills,
But to clean up my world so I could survive,
I'd cut bandaids and five dollar bills.

"Now bandaids are beige - says right on the box
'Skin tone' is the color inside.
Whose skin tone? Not mine! Been lookin' for years
For someone with that color hide.

"Cause bandaids show up, looking pasty and pale,
It's hard to pretend they're not there,
When the old man has beat me and I gotta get stitches,
Them bandaids don't cover or care.

"And now, you may ask, why would anyone want
To get rid of five dollar bills?
Cause for just that much cash, a dude's mama can buy
A crack rock, or whiskey, or pills.

"She smokes it or drinks it, and screams at her kids,
Then passes out cold on the floor.
By morn she remembers no pain, just the void,
And her kids wish the world had a door.

"So my magical dream not out of reach,
Like curing cancer or AIDS, or huge ills,
All I ask from my life is a little respect,
And no bandaids or five dollar bills.