For four days at the end of June, I attended the annual summit of Narrative 4 in Limerick, Ireland. I’ll do a longer post on Narrative 4 later, but in short, it is a global non-profit working to build empathy through the exchanging of personal stories. Before arriving, we were asked to craft a poem about where we’re from, based on these two examples by Lemon (Brooklyn, NY) and George Ella Lyons (Harlan, KY). Here’s is mine, in three parts, as I wrote it in June 2017. I may come back to update it as I find other ways to express where I’m from.
Where I’m From
I’m from exit 160 off I-75 North.
It’s easy to miss if you blink.
I’m from the house by the side of the road.
128 Logan Street
the one with the porch and patio.
“Y’all must get lost in there”
a neighborhood boy once said
I learned that even small town doctors live
in houses that stand out.
I’m from 19 years in one place.
I’m from parents who never missed a game—not one of
I’m from wanting to be special but scared to be different.
I’m from Halloween Hell Houses, more churches than restaurants, and never seeing
a woman in a pulpit.
I’m from potlucks at the park, cookouts by the pool,
and liking girls more than others wanted me to at that age.
I’m from the hills, as far as you can see—
too many now with stolen peaks.
I’m from coal country.
I’m from Jellico.
I am from happy pictures in black frames
dried flowers in whiskey bottles
and dusty books on wooden shelves.
I’m from “Walt”
the brick and mortar home holding the scent of incense
for the prayers I once said, and the olive wood rosary I keep on my desk
hoping I’ll say them again.
I am from “never enough time” and “Will we ever not feel so tired?”
I’m from writing on the couch
morning light streaming through the glass door, warming the spot where
Charlie dog lies in the sun,
watching for her.
I’m from Fajita Fridays and The Office when we’re too tired to talk.
I’m from wishing I could get up earlier and
knowing there still won’t be “enough time.”
I’m from puppy prints on the floor, paper piles on the table, and
how will I ever keep up with this calendar?
I’m from putting off running and putting on weight.
I’m from hoping that maybe people don’t think as harshly of me as I sometimes think of myself.
I’m from the city,
from the city of Nashville in Tennessee.
I’m from the city where sometimes
I wish I was still from the country.
I am from stories. So many
it’s a wonder we don’t drown in them.
My grandmother used to dream of “faraway places with strange sounding names.”
Then she and my granddad found them. We’ve hardly talked
of anything since.
I’m from David and Joan and all those people in that family tree.
I’m from Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas
Kentucky, Virginia, Scotland, and Ireland.
I’m from Franklin County, Holdenville, Lebanon, and Searcy
Antrim and Kintale and Fort Worth and Wetumka.
I’m from McRays and Wilkersons
Jacksons and Garners
Stuarts and Spicers and Waldens.
I’m from Clarks and Deadmans
Walshes and Bryans
Masters and Morrises and Stubblefields.
I’m from Champions and Lynches
Griffins and Terrells
Owens and Hales and Scurlocks.
I’m from Jarretts and McDonnells
Woodsons and Starkeys
Gibbons and Wheatleys and Moores.
I’m from faraway places with strange sounding names.
I’m from here. I’m from everywhere.
Where are you from? How would you express that through poetry?