Where We’re From Is From Many Places

A Crowdsourced Poetry Project from Write Out 2019
104 Different Writers
inspired by Where I’m From, a poem by George Ella Lyon and a crowd-version by Kwami Alexander for NPR

Listen to the Audio Collaboration Version of the Poem, read by nearly 25 contributors

WE ARE FROM PLACES

We’re from tiny sparks that light up a room

We’re from fireflies in golden cornfields

from ocean breezes flowing through our hair

from winding paths through forgotten woods,

from thin-ice bogs in winter, and bonfires

We’re from sunset mountains and wood-stove embers

from heather and whisky and raspberries

from foam and seaspit of ocean and sandstone cliffs

We’re from wild roses by little white churches

from warm red sun sliding across the sea

from noisy farms and  four wheelers driving

We’re from Mexico

from scarlet and grey and Lake Erie nights

from Sunnyside, New York

from Naples

We’re from New Jersey,

but also so much more

I am from where I am from,

with still so much to explore

We’re from grassy fields in Tennessee

and the mountain ranges of Pennsylvania

from 1950s Chicago;

from corner grocery stores,

chain link backyards, and bicycle sidewalks

We’re from the great veterans of the U.S.

to the joyful farmers of Oregon

from Brooklyn but now Connecticut

from leaving the city and now living the country

We’re from New England's cold snowy winters

and its hot, humid summers

from the town where cars are nice and the city is classic

from the smell of fresh cut hay

from long stormy nights

We’re from beautiful sunsets

from cows mooing to be fed

from working, dawn to dusk, every day

from long summer nights,

dark northern days, and rain

We’re from across great white topped waves

And lush never-ending plains

that go beyond the horizon

from the smell of the smoke

from a freshly fired bullet early in the morning

to the tracking in the pitch black forest

only lit by lamplight at night

We’re from rolling seeded fields

from dark green corn and light red tractors

from foundries, with our hands, black and sacred

from fields of wheat and corn to soybeans and potatoes

We’re from the trickling creek

and the tap-tap-tapping of a woodpecker floating in through

an open window in the morning

from levees and high water,

from ships slipping by overhead

WE ARE FROM FAMILY

We’re from tears and court dates

from separated families,

from mother and father fights

from the radio,

the one that we can tune into on the porch with the family

We’re from half German and half Italian

from brownies on the first day of school and just-because lemon cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar

from the home of a first generation working mom

from tuna casserole and Hamburger Helper

We’re from bleacher seats in Fenway Park,

scribbling box scores while sitting on our father’s lap

from freshly brewed coffee

and the comforting smell of cigarettes on my father’s calloused hands

from Jean's strength and Richard's silence…

We’re from a big family of many names

from red clay and white pines, learning to drive the old blue truck

from dirty roads our fathers went down

from the trouble truth all began when they had us

from every single action they made that ruined the relationship

We’re from family traditions

from dark times and hard grinds

from tombstone where grandma sleeps at peace

We’re from not caring about homework

and from watching TV while eating chips

from what everyone calls mischief and poco loco

but which we call Home Sweet Home

We’re from past and present families who fought for freedom

from the family who went to Germany, Iran, Afghanistan

from chaos created from cramming six children under one roof

We’re from the old house built from the ground on up

from “Help ya mutha” & “Not at the table”

from “Use your elbows” & “That’s my girl”

We’re from our grampa’s Cubs hat he wore for so long

from our dad’s dog Blackie -- the one we never got to meet

from wealth and privilege

from broken homes

We’re from family time outside

bringing us closer together

from family lessons and

never ending summer nights

We’re from excitement

from the last time I sat at the “kids” table

from the Be Grateful and Stop Complaining

from “We are going to be late” to “Welp, we are late”

We’re from baking and frosting cookies with cousins

from sledding on the big black sled

from taking cookies right after they get out of the oven

from the smell of cake

from good days to bad days to “I will make it through” days

We’re from rough, calloused,

but gentle hands of our fathers

from one coast to another

from the smell of burgers that Grandpa used to cook

from resh biscuits straight out of the oven

from buttered toast and scrambled eggs

We’re from sleeping in

and relaxing all day

from our father's snowman pancakes

and warm fires in winter

We’re from traditional Sunday Sicilian sauce

 and cacophony with a creative soul

trying to escape from a Manhattan manhole,

rising up

from a father who came from Sicily to the U.S.

on a ship named the Olympia on Halloween 1963,

from confusion, chaos and a President about to be murdered

Still he rose and did not go home

We’re from Calvin and Mary who worked as sharecroppers

picking cotton but each managed to earn associate degrees

from barbed wire and back roads

from common sense and contradictions

We’re from a life created in Panama

and brought to the Rocky Mountains,

a homestead moved into the city and then transferred to the suburbs

We’re from  the Rocky Mountains,

the Calvary, the western expansion

WE ARE FROM FRIENDSHIP

We’re from neighbors inviting us over to hear the guitar

melodies echoing happiness through us

from baseball games in the backyard,

Hula Hoops as bases, and sticks used

to mark the farthest drive

We’re from handshakes and inside jokes

with the people we love the most

from Indiana now but we are not a Hoosier

for we will forever be Michiganders in the heart

We’re from Marvin who died in the chopper

from Phin who dove under the water

We’re from parties in fields in the back of pick-up trucks

after the hometown football game

Where the Dairy Queen closes for winter

and all acknowledge its reopening

as the prelude to summertime.

We come from different places

But we all know each other’s faces

We’re from early football mornings

where crickets are still chirping

from the sound of nothing

WE ARE FROM OTHER PLACES, TOO

We’re from good morning, beautiful,

to good night, baby girl

from the scrape of shoes on aluminum

the plunk of a bobber in the early morning fog

from the cat with kittens in the oven

from bus lines and tree lines

car horns and crickets

We’re from fault lines and fantasy

from black oyster catchers,

common murres and puffins

from barefoot in lilac bushes

shaded hideout and mud pies

We’re from the town,

flooded by the fountain from which mental illness runs,

this place, deprived of the most essential human principle:

silence

from disappointment of teen pregnancy,

from the names echoing in my head on repeat

We’re from listening to soft music

from pain, from looking back at memories

from friends who have helped us through much of it

something I can be grateful for

We’re from not feeling like ourselves

from feeling our throat starting to sting

because of the tears we held back

every time we entered the school

We’re from crab apples and roller skates

hide and seek amongst fireflies

from canning jars

from delicious donuts, wet swimsuits,

and underwater forests filled with giant kelp

from cheerleading and gymnastics

We’re from the working that gets dirt on our hands

from eating brisket on Christmas

and listing the states on Thanksgiving

We’re from words that aren’t very much

but have so much meaning

from rooms full of blankets

from the old oak tree, chopped down and replaced with a lanky, frail sapling

that grew up with us

We’re from the Beatles

to the old country music

from Blake Shelton

to George Strait

We’re from champion clout

and the “shut up” shouts

from when the sun is high and the heat is rising

and the guns are down after a long battle

from a man that took a life was taken away from his faith

from blood left behind never to be revisited

from a good breakfast from an egg cooked in a frying pan

with bacon too

We’re from a grass patch, burned by fire,

but overflowing with life

from a rose bush that makes us bleed

yet never loses its beauty

from Colts fans and fishing poles

We’re from a front yard never replaced, with angels to watch over us

from when it rains and the statues cry,

and the water drips from their wings

from Edgar Allan Poe, bad Browns teams,

and the rusty bumper of a '74 Ford Maverick

We’re from barefoot blue ridge runners

and the softest, yet brokest hearts

from all the memories are all lost

and how we paid a great cost

We’re from lazy summers spent picking wild strawberries,

juice dripping down our chin

from crafts and creativity

We’re from coffee being brewed

to eggs being fried

to toast being toasted and

from sausages that are cooking

 from the scrape of shoes on aluminum

the plunk of a bobber in early morning fog

We’re from the aged tree topper in the wooden box

and getting third in the amateur pinewood derby

from softball fields where we learned to get along with other people

and never let our team down

We’re from Nancy Drew mysteries

and Sunday's comic strip section,

Little House books, and the back of a cereal box

We’re from something hidden in the back of our mind

Places, faces, items we don’t get to see,

yet we see it all the time


We Extend A HUGE Thank You to the Many Writers of this Poem -- Write Out

Steve Wolfe, D. L. Gilbert, Jeremy Huff, Sam, Bethany Silva, David Baroody, Dorothy Luongo, Kevin Hodgson, Jeff, Jo, Christie, tmcmeece, Barbara D., KHeim, Mindy; @NomadWarMachine, Beth Healey, Peggy Saunders, Jess, grammasheri, Annette M Madden, Room 6 Third Graders, ATJ, Keiana Shipe, Becca Days, Bella, Abby Myers, Mallory Eltzroth, Baylee Doster, Alex, Alyssa Oberlin, Alex Nichole, Jenna, Remy, Kaitlyn, Beckett, Neal, Slay Nation, Payton, Myca Miller, Kaydee, Braylon Meyer, Mayilaya, Raj, Cadence, Cade Speer, WalkingOnWorlds, Keith G., Bowe Schnelker, Logen Brand, Cohen Pfefferkorn, Kai, Sierra, MaKyle Green, Jackson, Olivia Woodcox, Gavin, Aidan Smith, Danny Mahoney, Nicholas Foraker, Shelby Badger, Addison Taylor, Khuyler, Isaiah Anderson, Amara, Curtis, Charlie, Oscar Avila, Carly, Kasper Vonderau, LeiAnna, Ella Dufresne, Daniel Bennett, DJ, Will, Epic, Lexi, Timothy O'Keefe, @Education4Irwin, Skylar L. Primm, Kathy Tighe, Harriet R. Kulig, Litgirl, Steve Peterson. Emily Rose, Medea Chillemi,  Kevin Kourakos, Jamie Lanham, Molly Robbins, Agnes Tirrito, Wanda

Editor’s Note of Apology: Contributions were sometimes moved, shifted, re-arranged, broken up, edited in the name of coherence of the larger poem.