Inspired by George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From"
|I am from dirty flannel shirts stained with smoke
and long, iron-curled hair adorned with barrettes.
From cast iron pans, and Chef Boyardee meat raviolis
that for some reason always tasted so good then
but are too tainted with aluminum to enjoy now.
I am from the family-built house on the lakefront
with the teeter-totter swing;
the backyard full of junk
concealed by rarely-mowed grass
where garter snakes and grasshoppers thrived;
the small brick house by the steel plant
whose air never feels right.
I am from the highway,
small lakes and rivers on one side
and the shore of Lake Superior on the other.
I am from the path lined with forget-me-nots
and bushes of sun-ripened raspberries;
the shallow creek down the hill whose rocky ripples sparkle
with sunlight filtered through the leaves of tall white birches.
I am from mixed blood and potluck feasts;
from thick sausage made of wild meat,
and the fish—pickled, smoked, or fried—that I have finally learned to love.
I am from the harmonious voices singing at every routine family gathering,
and the silence punctuated by murmurs and tobacco smoke.
From bodies stunted by caffeine and cigarettes,
and eyes gone bad from reading in the dark.
I am from Wolfgang and Olaf, from Mary and Helen.
From a young man who fled his country after the great war,
who worked hard to build a life for his great-grandchildren;
the girl who fled residential school and married a foreigner;
the indigenous child who was scooped from her home,
adopted with several others by a stranger
who would tell her that her parents were savages.
I am from the children’s choir kneeling with a doll in a manger,
and I am from by the fire, singing in a language that I yearn to understand,
to the beat of deerskin drums and turtle-shell rattles.
I am from candle flames and burning sage,
from holy water and cedar baths.
I am from somewhere in between.
I am from somewhere green, somewhere white,
picture albums with photographs
that no longer stick to the yellowed pages;
softly faded memories of a northern childhood.