Tuesday, March 01, 2005

More on where I'm from 

I did not write the "Where I'm From" below, but there is much there with which I am intimately familiar. The woman who wrote this has known me her entire life; I have known her for all but 12 1/2 months of mine. She is as much a part of where I'm from as are all of the people and places about whom and which I wrote last week. That she did not figure in my poem, nor I in hers, may be because each of us was digging into our early lives, and our early relationship was both too close and not close enough. That she was the first person with whom I wanted to share my poem is an indication of how our relationship has grown and matured.

Last week I emailed the "Where I'm From" exercise to my sister, Melanie. This morning, she emailed me hers... then three revisions in quick succession. (We are from perfectionism.) Then we spent a while (Texan for longer than my lunch hour) on the phone talking about the process, and our childhoods, and writing additional poems that would start after childhood (Where I'm From leaves home), and whether or not to send this exercise to all of our relatives. We both want to know what our one living grandmother (Verda, who raised my father to be a good husband rather than a good son), and our parents, aunts and uncles, would write about where they are from.

Melanie sent me a fourth revision and a fifth after I posted this; I will revise until she is done.

Where I'm From
by Melanie

I am from warm towels,
from Crayola and the kitchen table.
I am from skylights, terrazzo and sliding glass doors,
spare, modern, my face distorted in gleaming chrome.
I am from the buttercups and onion flowers
and emerald clover cool beneath my naked feet.
I am from blueprints and bread,
from Verda and Lamar
and the Scotts that may have been royal
if only in southwest Arkansas.
I am from righteous indignation
and the virtue of being bright.
From mind your manners
and I love you muchissimo.
I am from Jesus loves me
and good girls don’t.
I’m from Houston swelter and Little River stones,
Black-eyed peas and gingersnaps
and pecans shelled during Sunday football games.
From the gas mask that delivered my grandfather
to the elves that washed Bubba’s dishes at night,
and momma tracing my face with her fingertips
before she turned out the light.
I am from the photographs,
the crimson dress in the closet
that whisper the family secret
and my inheritance,
a legacy of matriarchs.

Last May, Melanie started a mommy blog. She writes primarily as a record for her sons, Max and Reed (aka Boo). She writes very well. Many times during the past 10 months, her stories have made me laugh out loud on days when I had little other reason to laugh. Mr. Max and Boo has been tucked discreetly in my sidebar since Music and Cats began. It now shares pride of place with Paul vs. the Squamous Monster, the story of my husband Paul's second battle with cancer, and Ratiocination, Paul's political blog. By blood and by choice, these are my people. They are where I'm from now.