Where I’m From

 

Looking for a meaningful ice-breaker for your next class?  It takes a little time and commitment, but this might be it… In 2012 I was introduced to George Ella Lyon, a teacher and writer who created the original “Where I’m From” poem.  Since then, teachers around the world have designed entire class projects around their pupils’ “Where I’m From” work.  Here’s mine…
Where I’m From

Laura Gogia

Photo: Carol Von Canon – Flickr

I am from a peach-dappled dining room, From Dunkin’ Stix and Sour Cream Pringles,
piled high in a pie tin.
I’m from the St. Francis birdbath, out front by the fire hydrant.
(Shiny and dry,
waiting with kindly confidence.)
I am from the seconds counted between the lightning and the thunder,
when afternoon storms pour into the
cracked valleys
through Burke’s Garden, around Hungry Mother, and all the other
ordinary places with
extraordinary names.

I am from Chevys and unfiltered Camels,

from stories meant to be crawled into
like a root cellar
like an empty box behind Ace Hardware.

I’m from Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Rigby, Eleanor who serves up soft serve

down by the Laundromat,
From Betty and Bub and the man with the impossibly crooked beard (Grandma said he married a witch).
I’m from the screenless attic window,
the steaming cab of the pickup,
the carport strangled and tangled for eternity in trumpet vine,
listening to Otis Redding and waiting—waiting out the breathless hour before Dark.

I’m from the Mountain and the Hospital—

Black-soled feet and Black-soled Danskos,
both filthy with living and
leaving a trail across the linoleum.
I’m from little Uncle Jimmy left at a gas station,
and the little broken flower,
swept to the corner of the hospital room
after unforeseen complications.

I am from a reverence for the unacknowledged—

the grungy rasp of the secret cancer,
the unspoken jaundice of badness,
the crackle snapping through the air seconds
before the alarm sounds.

I am from a breath held just so the baby who hasn’t cried yet doesn’t have to be alone.

In the highest corner of my closet,
just beneath the humming tube light

Lives a faded teal suitcase—a tote, really.
Heavy with a blanket, a ring box, maybe a Bible,
and a sandwich bag of thank you notes, baby pictures nestled inside,
held carefully in the dark.
Acknowledged for being unacknowledged
like a dusty saint,
like a 7/11 chrysanthemum,
perhaps like a held breath,

Waiting—just waiting for me to unpack them.
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