The Boy Who Would Be Man

Jen Cass
Jen Cass


You were born a writer’s son

On South Tacoma Way

And you rode your daddy’s shoulders

Under winter skies so gray

By the time the seasons changed

Your tiny life was rearranged

Your daddy packed his pretty words

And drove your world away

Hey Ah…


Momma planted tulip bulbs

A year after that day

To keep her mind on something else

To chase his ghost away

And you drew pictures on the walk

A little man with colored chalk 

You signed your name on everything

With giant, purple “J’s”


And who could tell that you’d go wrong

Her little boy her would be man

For you she tried to get along

She worked two jobs to pay the rent

And she was too tired

When she came back home

To ask you where you went


So you carved yourself a family

From the boys who weren’t in school

Learned to follow orders

Learned a different set of rules

And you said you would never change

You’d live and die inside this gang

You’d earn respect by any means

So proud to play the fool


When you’ve never heard of Malcolm X

And Martin Luther King is just a street

That runs through Hilltop

With its pawn shops, and rival gangs

And every window wears its bars

Broken glass, gravel yards

And you think this is all life has to give


You say…

“You don’t know what’s right or wrong

I’m not a boy now I’m a man

And all my innocence is gone

And you might think that I am free

But I’m a prisoner in this life

There’s only one way out for me”

Hey Ah…


The cops they draw a chalk line

‘Round the boy who would be man

On the cracked and crumbing sidewalk

That he colored with his tiny hands

And momma cannot be consoled

Her little boy, his heart of gold

Lay broken in the street

He thought he owned


She says…

“I don’t know where I went wrong

I raised a boy to be a man

I watched him grow

And now he’s gone

And every day I’ll see his face

In every boy who walks these streets

Where such potential goes to waste”

Hey Ah…