I’m From

after George Ella Lyon, with my students

I’m from TVs the size of fridges,
Atari squeals, Simon, Merlin, Intellivision.
The lazy dust cloth, the working mother’s hiss:
“Hit and miss, Rachel. Hit and miss.”
I’m from vacuum trails in plush red carpet,
A mustard house on a frontage road
And truckers’ begged highway horns—
Wah Waaaaaaaaaaah!
We kids would jump in triumph.

I’m from floral couches, floral papered walls.
It felt like home until a college peer up north
Noted, “20 years out of vogue.” Huh. It was.
Still, I am from my mother’s red geraniums,
Acrid marigolds along our walk, the peeling iron rail,
The 3-inch heels on which she perched while pulling weeds.
I’m from low sky wet on hair frizz and clean skin.
From Pepsi and popcorn family nights.
From pizza without parents and thrown-phone sister fights.

I’m from “The man sits at the head of the table”
And “Serve him first” and Troy, Rebecca and Kim,
From my mother’s pride in goulash
And hamburger cottage cheese lasagna.
I’m from ten cents per her plucked grey hair.
I’m from Granny’s hidden grudge—her flaky piecrust
Made me know a different kind of love,
Her lips turned from my kiss.
I’m from “As I have loved you, love one another”
And the rumble-belly of Fast and Testimony meetings.
From “I know this church is true” and “Cool beans! Warm corn!”

I’m from the muddy Mississippi, the cardinal of Carpenter Park,
The Sangamon and baptisms for the dead.
I’m from the buttered cob and lumpy cream of wheat,
The smell of my step-dad’s Sanka coffee.
From the father who left us on a black Kawasaki,
The mother who curled up into a claw.
I’m from her desperate call: “Go to H-E double toothpicks!”
And Dad’s lonely basement cot.

I’m from Pine Drive, the tangled woods and Tammy,
From jerky-dead pigs in the yard of an abandoned farm,
From canned goods still shelved in the half burnt house,
From straw that caught me once I dropped the rope,
From Illinois lightning risked in wet grass
And Orion blinking on a hungry dog’s pen.
I’m from the snowman I was never meant to build,
Pneumonia outrun by my dare.

I’m from back roads that throw kids from cars
Into Heavenly Father’s arms. From long prayers.
Driving fast, I’m from ever-receding rows
Of green tongued corn, horizon swallowed in the throat
And in the heart of fields. But it’s been years.
I’m from God and corn no more, but still I yield.

2017

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