Sunday, June 10, 2007

"I Am From" poem

(see June 2, 'Writing to Change the World' and comments, for where this idea came from; and for a bit more personal history, these postings: Funny Dream, Six odd or little known facts, 10, 20, 30, and ice cream and Vashon island)

I am from Dean and Linda, from Megan, from ‘the twins,' a now-fragmented tribe.

I am from the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound and Mount Rainier, madrona trees and blackberry brambles, from fog banks and cloudy days and “rain turning to showers with a chance of sun-breaks.”
…From 'God’s country.' (Not that anyone talked much of God - but the land and people sure were beautiful and amazing, so full of life, and that must mean something even if this world was all there is.) I am from wanting there to be more.

I am from rural island life, from sheep and vegetable gardens and 4-H, from playing in the barn and building forts in the woods and giving names to all the chickens.
…From bails of hay and alfalfa pellets from Western Farmers, and black-rubber barn boots, from trips to the beach at low tide to get seaweed for the garden.
…From living off the land and “I can heat this whole house with my wood-stove,” from chop down another tree, haul branches, stack wood, bring in another log; from hand-spun afghans and sweaters and socks, from green beans from the garden and homemade bread and applesauce.

I’m from no depth-perception or coordination, from "That’s OK, nice try, now just hold the bat more like this and keep your eye on the ball." I am from giving up and going to the library every recess instead, relieved and embarrassed at the same time.
…from reading all the time.
…from history and philosophy and literature and culture, from performing arts and great books and geniuses and those who at least could recognize genius when they saw it, from relatives with high IQ’s and great talent but often lacking ambition, sense, or luck.

I am from Olympia Beer, Dad's constant supply kept in the garage, and from a family tree with 13 alcoholics and addicts, but also from AA and Al-Anon and from, “I’m sorry, I guess I did not know any other way to cope. I wish I had known what I was doing.”

I’m from strong women and weak ones, and their complicated lives: from Great-Aunt Lou who had to live with her in-laws and work in their restaurant for nothing and took money from the cash register until she had enough for the down payment on a house. From her sister who just tried to keep everyone happy, not seeing how much that cost.

I’m from a family growing apart, from going separate directions and re-inventing ourselves, from “You can be whatever you want to be,” “I guess we can’t tell you what to do,” and “Everybody has to live their own life.”

I am from “My Heart, Christ’s Home” and “Mere Christianity,” from Young Life and youth group and “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” from “I can’t do this, God!" and a God who says, “But I can.”
…From “Which circle best represents your life?” and "assurance of salvation," from discovery group and action group and prayer-chains and “Reach the campus today, you’ll reach the world tomorrow.”
…From celebrate diversity, from seeking the fingerprints of God, from “every tribe, tongue, people, and nation,” from finding cultural helpers, asking good questions, listening, taking notes; from “…That men might reach out and find God even though he is not far from each one of us,” from “How can this people find God’s way to life under his lordship?”

I am from Haiti and India and Mexico City, from Ashgabad and Osh and Andijon and Al Hoceima and from living daily on the edge by faith. I am from the confusing relief and disappointment of coming home just when you are starting to really break through - the strength and weakness of short-term missions.

I am from reading the news from someone else’s point of view and wondering if I can still think like an American, then seeing: you may be different, but you are still American, and you always will be.


Courtney said...

this is awesome. I'm wondering if I have the courage to write my own "i am from"

Marti Smith said...

It was easier than I expected to produce something that both felt authentic and might communicate fairly gracefully. I thought about it over a day or two but wrote it in one sitting. Now I think I'll go back and look more carefully at some of the other ones out there.

megan noel said...


Marti Smith said...

A friend suggested that the earlier version of this poem might hurt my family so it has been amended. Meg, Dad, others - I'm sorry!

megan noel said...

don't apologize to me. i liked it better the other way. glad i saved it :)

Dad said...

I wasn't offended, Marti. It made me stop and think. There is much to rue. It is a wonder that we all made it through those years. Maybe 'the tribe' should try to have a reunion.