Our Juneau Writers of Color group is gonna meet this weekend so I thought it'd be fun if we all did an assignment, did the classic "I AM FROM" poem (prompt credited to George Ella Lyons, I believe) to share. It was kind of a selfish assignment because really I'm just forcing them to speed date with me for a moment, tell me where they're from, what makes them who they are, at least at this point in their lives. The last time i did an I AM FROM poem it was like my first year of college and where I was from Then is very different than where I'm from Now. It's interesting to think about how where we're from isn't just a cumulative list of experiences, they're weighted so that some stuff seems bigger, feels heavier, takes up more room than other stuff at different points in our lives. Well, here it is, proof I did my homework, current stuff taking up room in my life:
I AM FROM
I am from combat shopping day after Thanksgiving, sun still feasting on dawn, my mother coaching us in the parking lot:
Grab whatever looks good, think about it later. Be quick, travel light. Socks are half off.
I am from brown hair, black hair, pepper, pennies, sunrise, strawberry blonde locks,
gossiped and snipped, pieces of other people’s beauty as of yesterday,
their rich wigs, fallen to my mother’s spare change feet, kissing the ground she walks on.
I am from the daughter of daughter of hairdressers,
of gentle hands at your pressure points.
I am from May the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance to you, and give you peace!
and I am from god damn peaceful people,
who choose to say nothing
if they have nothing nice to say,
so I am from begging the LORD to love me anyway.
I am from high school sweethearts married almost 40 years now, whose sole concept of hurting each other’s feelings is not being able to find the other person at Costco.
I am from heroes, who I never saw in their normal clothes until I was grown.
I am from ripping them apart, searching for their capes.
I am from
the single tear a woman lets herself cry only once a year,
rolled along Seoul’s sewer system,
carried by rat to the coast,
shaken off hands wiped clean.
I am from a drop
gaining strength across the ocean,
I am from destruction
from men at their knees
from frantic mothers, their children’s names an endless echo,
and a sore prayer in the throats of presidents,
and I am from not knowing my own strength,
reaching out to touch him and my wave breaking legs,
I crash, just wanting to lap at his ankles.
I am from two hundred thousand sunken ships,
our treasure lost at sea, and like ghosts
we haunt the streets of our homeland,
looking for what’s ours,
I am from passing our hands through solid objects as we name them.
Korean men and women,
maybe our brothers and sisters,
stare straight through our accent,
our american hips,
so we can not tel
lif we have really come back
I am from abandoning myself.
From tucking me
in a basket, floating down a monarch vodka river,
From leaving me
at doorsteps, in backseats, under silk sheets, between body heat.
I am from two driftwood twigs paler than they ever were,
softer than they appear,
broken from a weeping tree somewhere,
and I am from the fifteen year old haphazard love making of their edges as they
rub together like they were meant to be fire,
limbs in a collision rhythm.
See I am not from sparks,
I am from friction, from smoke, from a slow burn that scars you from the inside.
I am from a dream left open and men like happy thieves
I am from a pirate wife’s life, who let him steal from me.
and I am from mutiny,
from a plank made out of fingernails I pulled from our hearts.
And I am from the watch tower on starboard side at sunset,
wide awake, with death grips on a pistol,
on my steel child not to be confused with bullets,
and old poems I quilted into a white flag,
some days we raise it.
I am from the Queen of Spades,
the Ace of Hearts,
the Five of Diamonds.
I am nothing. I am royalty.
put me back,
shuffle me, cut me,
let me be found.
I am magic, I am from tricks.