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.


  1. Very nice! Did you do this with us when we all did it a few years ago? Have you read Mom's? Of course Barbara's are excellent, but Mom and the other girls did some really good ones too.

  2. I love this quote from Barbara's,

    "I am from the blood of dark Scotland
    By way of Ireland's shore, from clay dirt
    And broomsedge and blue, distant hills."

    Makes me want to don the family tartan, grab a broadsword, and fight a noble clan war :)

    Yes, I did this when the family did it. I think I sent it to my mom. Just came across it on a flashdrive and I've been wanting to write again so I thought a blog would be a good nudge to get me started :)

  3. Good! I think your mom sent me this, because it seemed familiar. Somewhere I have a file folder with copies of everyone's. I think I was thinking of putting them together in a self-published book. Yes, that is one of my favorites from Barb, too. Looking forward to reading you!!

  4. Welcome to the blogosphere, Sheila! I truly enjoyed your spin on "I'm From" format. So many things are shared memories for me, though we haven't met. Feel free to come round Caneyhead and visit: Life & Faith in Caneyhead.

  5. Excellent! Here's mine:

  6. Love it! And can relate to pieces of it, lol. :0)