Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where I'm From

I posted a few weeks ago that I met George Ella Lyon.  She is an outstanding poet, writer, peace activist and singer.  I am sure that she has done many other things.  I had dinner with her so I know that she is also a wonderful conversationalist.  Years ago George Ella wrote a poem which has become quite well known called "Where I'm From".  I'll reprint it here because it's just so darned good...

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black and glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch Elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
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's branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost 
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was 
a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments --
snapped before I budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Since meeting George Ella and hearing her amazing stories I have written a few "Where I'm From" poems.  Many, many people have done this as well.  Some of her most powerful stories are simply the personal responses people have written to "Where I'm From".  So, here is one of mine.  It's personal.  If you don't know anything about me, it may not make too much sense.  It was fun to write and I intend on writing many more.  I think George Ella would like that.

I'm  from Ruck and Jack
and six brothers and sisters.
I am from teasing and laughing and never 
looking for a playmate.
I am from hot sand
on summertime barefeet
and glistening Lake Michigan waves.
I'm from sun bleached hair
and my little brother's smattering of 
From hand-me-downs and 
big pots of food.
I am from Catholic School and 
altar boys and six-day-a-week Mass.
I am from hymns and prayers said by heart.
I am from books passed lovingly into my hands
like treasure chests filled with gold.
I'm from groovy and cool and far out, man.
I'm from tie-dye shirts and big old bell bottom pants.
I'm from wooden music 
played on steel strings
with calloused finger tips.
I am from campfire nights and 
From starshine and treefrogs and minnows
at the water's edge. 
I am from the music of owls and mourning doves,
from the tapping of woodpeckers and 
the barking of squirrels.
I'm from the wind whipped whistling of too tall pines 
and the crackle rustle of sweetgum leaves.
I am from Heidi with
long straight hair and 
sparkling emerald eyes
and a beautiful freckled smile.
I am from boys grown to men
and a room full of best friends
year after year after year.

Thanks, George Ella.

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