Friday, March 06, 2009


Note: This poem is an exercise my office mate, Mary Ann, recently used in class with her poetry students. Adopting the template from “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, Mary Ann's students created their own poem. I played along. Here’s Lyon’s poem, followed by mine.

"Where I'm From"
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening
it tasted like beets...)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm,
whose long gone limbs I
as if they were my own.
I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from perk-up and pipe down.
I'm from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.
I'm from Artemus and Billie Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
to the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dressbox
spilling old pictures
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams;
I am frmo those moments
snapped before I budded0
leaf-fall from the family tree.

“Where I’m From”
(Tanya's version)

I am from the musty, dark stacks of a library long gone
a bare, white-walled, sterilized infirmary,
from knitting needles and syringes and baseball gloves and ruffed grouse.
I am from a perfectly rectangular red brick house of the 60's.
(Squeeky clean and smelling of Clorox
by noon every
Saturday morning.)
I am from rhododendron bushes,
trilliums and jack-in-the-pulpits,
whose preachers, draped in deep burgundy, pontificate
to decaying underbrush.
I’m from piano lessons and hand-me-downs,
from Zebulon Vance and Mary McIntosh,
from Bob and Bertha, Hoyle and Ruth.
I’m from family gatherings and family gossip,
from silent shame mended with threads of an overriding love.

I’m from cleanliness is next to godliness
and salvation by grace through faith
and half of a memorized catechism
“Make sure you always have on clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital.”
I’m from Taylorsville and Pigeon Roost,
from soup beans, cornbread, Grandma's biscuits and sausage gravy.
From a soldier’s flashbacks of foreign lands
to caring for others before oneself.

Out in the thicket, I lived in my imaginary cabin,
my treasure chest buried beneath its earthen carpet,
full of secrets still guarded to this day by roots and branches
and towering sentries in the distance.

I am from the mountains,
their rocks, my strength,
their creeks, the blood of my veins,
their steadfast grace and beauty,
my lifeline to peace.

1 comment:

i am very mary said...

Oh! I love it!