Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where I'm From

Adapted from George Ella Lyons by Sheila Smith Clay

 I am from the water hose on summer afternoons,
from Old Milwaulkee and Vicks VapoRub.
I am from the long, grassy, green hill in front of Mamaw’s.
(It seems so small now that I am not.)
I am from bluegrass and sassafras,
and the mulberry tree,
 whose sweet, soft fruit still stains my cheeks and lips.

I am from fresh, fried chicken on Sundays and musty old books,
from Lonzo and James Garfield.
I’m from the guitar-pickers and beer drinkers,
rarely one without the other;
from eat-every-bite-there-are-starving-children-in-Africa.
(Why Mama never sent my uneaten food to them, I’ll never know.)
I’m from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—
and Aunt Barbara’s…interesting interpretation of the Gospels.

I’m from the Dowell-Roberts line with some Smith thrown in there somewhere—just enough Cherokee to keep a good tan;
from potato candy in the glass hen on the “chester drawers” in the hall
and sausage gravy like they learned it in the Army.
From the school bus my mother backed into;
the foot most of my ancestors have put in their mouths;
a single, tired, shared brain;
and the horses that have thrown us all at one time or another.

I am from singing the old songs in Mamaw’s living room
and studying the grainy black and white faces
of people I never knew
and who never knew me
but, nonetheless, were the beginning of who I am.