I wrote the first draft of this poem almost a year ago, the first time I attended Laurie Wagner’s incredible online Wild Writing class. In my first class, Laurie used Kentucky poet laureate (2015-2016) George Ella Lyon’s poem Where I’m From as our first writing prompt for 12 minutes of unedited, fast-as-you-can, pen never leaving the page writing. Wild writing is spontaneous and messy and you never know what you’re going to get when you show up in the morning. It’s an incredible practice, where I have met some truly lovely and inspiring people.
It took six months for me to look back at anything I wrote during Wild Writing, and when I did I found that some of the stuff I wrote might actually be good. I’ve been longing to share some of it. So today I sat down and transcribed this first piece and gave it a little editing. Not too much, but enough to pull a few cringes out. It’s not perfect, I could probably spend more time editing it, but I don’t really want to. I want some of the rawness to stay there. I want to put it out there, and let it go.
I feel like if I were to write a “Where I’m From” poem today it would probably be really different. And it would also be my truth. Because we’re all from so many places, aren’t we?
Where I’m from
by Mikalina Kirkpatrick
I’m from the family that just doesn’t talk about it.
I’m from bruises under shirts
and secrets on the other side of doorways,
broken glass swept up with last night’s dinner and put in the garbage
like it never happened.
Where I’m from is old stories
about speakeasies, poker games and polka dancing.
Putting up pears in the fall and making cabbage rolls all winter long.
Where I’m from we don’t have time for your shit.
You better find something to do or I’ll find something for you.
Where I’m from the woods are thick with fallen leaves and dusty sunlight,
woodsmoke and rednecks with deer guns.
Where I’m from ghosts walk among us
real as the stories we tell ourselves before going to sleep
like little lost children at the mall calling out for mommy.
Where I’m from the tapestries of life are bright and chaotic
and stitched together with yarn
like a crazy quilt you find at a rummage sale
after all the good stuff is gone.
Where I’m from we try to find peace,
all of us,
in the corners we have retreated to.
Though no one is speaking
and most of us are dead,
we’re all trying to put the same puzzle back together
like broken glass from last night’s dinner
thrown down against the tiles in weary exasperation and sorrowful rage.
Where I’m from we’re all about second chances
because most of us didn’t know we were up
the first time around.
Where I’m from we don’t wear makeup or shave our legs
or say the pledge of allegiance anymore.
Where I’m from the animals rule the roost.
Where I’m from we’re ready for something to change.
We’re trying to break the chains of years,
of generations, of biology and the threat
of the continuation