When I graduated from high school, there was a local writers group I joined. I was a member for quite some time, eventually taking over as the group coordinator (which is a fancy way of saying I would schedule meetings, take minutes, and generally keep the meeting organized and moving). One of the poetry exercises we did was called ‘Where I’m From”.
The idea was to take about twenty minutes to list all of the things you could think of about where you were from: your hometown, impressions, favorite moments or places, famous people from there, family or friends, sights, smells, memories, etc. After the twenty minutes were up, we were to take the pieces home and create a poem using some, all, or none of our brainstorming list.
Here is the poem that I created and refined over the years. It’s not award-winning material, but I love it all the same. I really feel this sums up – in a general sort of way – my hometown, my childhood, and the overall feel I get when I think of them both.
Where I’m From
I’m from dirt roads and hill-top churches
from Campbell’s soup and grape Kool-Aid.
I’m from the old house with the wood stove
and the red shag carpet,
from the pear tree and the honeysuckle vine,
blossoming in summer.
I’m from Jonas White and Frankie Silver,
from Jesus Loves Me and the children’s bible stories
my sister would read me before bed.
I’m from long-winded debates
and hour-long lectures,
from front porch swings and songs about
a hole at the bottom of the sea.
I’m from Casar, thank you very much –
where the C is said like a K, and the S like a Z.
I’m from red clay gardens, tenant farmers,
and women working long hours in the mills.
I’m from the graffiti on the laundromat walls
beside Turner’s Grocery on NC 10.
I’m from a time when bravery
was picking out your own hickory switch
and Dad was the one you went to for advice.
I’m from Scot Irish drunks and Independent Baptist,
from fried bologna and pinto beans,
mashed ‘taters and homemade ‘snow cream’.
I’m from the worn albums overflowing
with Polaroid memories,
tear drops and laughter,
creased and yellowed by Time,
and countless viewings
around the kitchen table.
Copyright (C) J.S. White