Saturday, December 31, 2011

Where I'm From

(This is the second draft.)

I'm the runt in a litter of four.

I'm from mango trees and stray cats.
I'm from cigarettes and crossword puzzles.
I'm from chew with your mouth closed
and sit up straight, and don't bring a book
to the family reunion.

But I'm from books, rows and rows of books
uneven and yellowing like teeth.
I'm from fairy tales and dreams and poems,
and stories of ghosts after the war,
like that time it rained indoors when my mother
was a child. I'm from superstitions.
I'm from Our Father and Matthew 6:25-34.
I'm from grandfather who spied on the Japanese,
and buried his gold, and died before I was born.

I'm from letters that said more
than I could say out loud.

I'm from the sea, which healed most hurts,
before it got too black to swim in.
I'm from oysters and carabao's milk,
and Folksy Bakeshop's fresh bread.

Even after listing it all, I often feel as if
I don't belong anywhere. I had a house full
of carelessly archived memories left behind:
papers burned, books and clothes given away.

I learned to cut the string that tied my heart
to things. In the end, I own these words,
and they shape the past between syllables,
and foretell the future with every phrase.

I'm from this poem, and more poems to come.
Based on George Ella Lyon's poem of the same title.

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