‘Where I’m From’: A Crowdsourced Poem That Collects Your Memories Of Home
BY CASEY NOENICKX
NPR asked for your poems inspired by memories of home. What we received was overwhelming: 1,400 submissions in just two days, with lines that draw on all five senses — in vivid detail and gauzy memories.
In our callout, NPR resident poet Kwame Alexander and Morning Edition host Rachel Martin looked to one poem in particular: “Where I’m From” by Appalachian poet George Ella Lyon. Lyon herself responded to our callout and left something in our submission inbox:
“I was amazed and delighted to hear you read part of ‘Where I’m From’ on Morning Edition Monday. My poem, written in 1993, was inspired by a poem of Jo Carson’s. Her poem took off from something she heard somebody say,” she said. “So ‘Where I’m From’ has been a pass-it-on-phenomenon from the get-go. Here’s to the power of poetry and place, and to the voices in all of us that long to be heard.”
As Kentucky’s poet laureate in 2015, Lyon collected “Where I’m From” poems from people around the world. Here are some of yours:
Where I’m From: A Morning Edition Crowdsourced Poem of Remembering
I am from travelers and adventure
from “Be seen, not heard!”
from ritual and plainsong
from England and exile
from mint sauce and lamb.
I am from casseroles and canned tuna
Kennedys and Saturday morning cartoons
I am from Tang in a Daffy Duck glass
from wall phones with mangled cords stretched during private calls in a room too far
I come from popcorn ceilings
dining rooms of glossy mahogany
I am from bed sheets
Draped over our dining room chairs.
from the trees Littering the backyard
The sweet taste of mulberries Staining my fingers red
I’m from big hats under rainbow umbrellas
Buckets of wet sand and unstable castles
I’m from orange and vanilla custard
with a pizza slice the size of your chest
From hot July days and cool summer nights
I am from Sunday night pizza and Monday Night Football
I am from marbles
From empanadas cooking in the street
I am from orchids and mango trees
I am from la torta tres leches and ruana
I am from happy and serious
From hard work and sweat
I’m from grit, respect, and discipline.
from big family reunions and endless laughs.
I am from houses never locked
from the projects in Brooklyn
and dominoes in the park
I am from salsa and the car horns blaring
I am from diners and malls and accents that put an “aw” in coffee.
from silky lingerie and sweat socks, bruised knuckles and scars I gave myself
from longing to be someone, somewhere else.
I am from a mother who was still a girl;
whose beauty kept her shy
I am from dirt and fences
from strength and toughness
I am from ashes flicked into the tray
the despair of divorce
bonds gone unappreciated
eviction and being thrown away
running and begging to stay
I am from a little girl who just needed a break
I am from a time when my mother went to the hospital and never came back;
when my toys were in a box by the curb as we drove away.
I am from singing in the darkness of night
Putting myself to sleep with the sound of my own voice.
I am from playing backyard baseball with tennis balls, Wiffle balls, even roundish gourds.
from weekend sleep-overs
from orange push-ups
from fallen leaves kicked up in swirls on walks to school,
from early morning radio announcements of a snow day — no school!
I am from the South and the North.
from immigrant grandparents and Civil War soldiers.
I am from the red dirt clay of Virginia
From the sounds of the fiddle to the beauty of a choir
From the jig and the reel
to the cloggers and the dancers.
From collard greens and fat back,
chitterlings and white bread
I’m from hymns learned on Sundays,
hypocrisy displayed on Mondays.
I am from Tom Petty
and baby oil in the hot sun
rye bread and salami.
I am from black cows,
tacos, bicycles, and
The gentle lure of crickets.
I am from James Brown and Santana.
from Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon
and Crystal Blue Persuasion.
I am from endless steps,
from California and Texas, and Durango, Colorado.
From unknown ancestors of the ancient Southwest,
cliff-dwellers and puebloans.
I am from the earth —
from from cityscapes and sleepy suburbs
from cicada clicks and firefly sparks
from the call of books and breathing through struggles.
I am from you
and you are from me
We are love
We are home
We are from this day forward.