Friday, June 23, 2006

Poetry by Numbers

This poem by George Ella Lyons, titled Where I'm From, lends itself to immitation, and was used as the basis of a writing assignment for a class at the Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

I heard about it from Veronica at Toddled Dredge, which is the blog before mine on the Crazy/Hip Blog-Mamas web ring. (You used to have to click the tiny little "-" on the left there, but now I've added her to my list of links, so it's easy to get to. [Mom, I think you would especially enjoy her.])

Here is Veronica's version of the poem.
Here is a contest with many versions.
Here is a template if you'd like to write your own.
Here is mine (Lisa, check your E-mail before you read this):

Where I'm From

I am from a Snoopy lunchbox,
a rickety cart with a tiny black and white TV,
waxed paper and Strawberry Quik.

I am from the red house on Bayside Avenue
the rambling parsonage on the hill
the splintery-sided duplex
white siding in the suburbs.
Loyal Smutley, orange Volvo, fresh cut grass
Grandpa praying for unwitting sinners in the Sunday leaves.

I am from the woods behind the house
woodchucks, rat snakes, box turtles,
the allure of touch-me-nots--but only the fat ones pop.

I am from "not before six o'clock" on Christmas morning,
Saturday special breakfast,
From Earl and Louise and the far-off Moores.

I am from towering stacks of library books in crinkly plastic
and from moving boxes never unpacked.

From the marriage of "one right way" to "shades of gray."

I am from Sunday School, peace rallies,
boxes sent to a Mississippi family,
rice and tea like the children in Cambodia.

I'm from Tunkhannock, the Dutch rub,
brownies and maple walnut ice cream.

From great grandfathers black with coal dust,
a great aunt (or cousin once removed?) in France,
Nicholson File, Lincoln Bank.

I am from thick, crumbling sepia photographs:
Is that Grandma? Who's he?
Did they really take a picture of her after she died?

I am from jumpy, faded, silent home movies:
Mom in polyester and cat-eye glasses
Dad in shorts and knee socks, trips I never knew I took.

I am from a scrapbook for each child and another for the whole family:
Combing through childhood photos to recall
that couch, those shorts, don't you still have that teddy bear?

Scrapbook photos of a family reunion 30 years back, long-lost cousins.
Digital photos of another family reunion, cousins found.

10 comments:

Veronica Mitchell June 23, 2006 10:02 PM  

Thank you for the kind words. Your poem is lovely. I especially liked
"not before six o'clock" on Christmas morning.

Dad June 24, 2006 6:05 AM  

Boy, does that bring back memories for me!

Just last night Mom was wondering aloud something about "I wonder what the kids remember from their childhoods," or some such thing.

I'll be rereading this.

Thanks you.

Dad

mom June 24, 2006 6:40 AM  

How glad I am that you found that site! And that you shared both it and your memories in such a beautiful way.

Here is a short version that I wrote a few months ago as a warm-up exercise at a writing class - the instructions must have come from the same source.

Where I'm From

I'm from a coal-eating furnace in the cellar;
A folded-up rollaway bed in the living room;
And laundry pinned to dry in the attic.

I'm from two-story tall piles of dusty strippings;
Low green bushes bearing cool round huckleberries;
And tired feet wading in soothing slow-running creeks.

I'm from backyard trees with plump orange persimmons;
Hard black walnuts hiding beneath greens hulls that stain;
And dogwood trees gracing the spring with lacy white veils.

I'm from Pap Pap Moore's coal-blackened face;
Father Jennings' book-filled hands;
And Mother Marcine's patient heart.

I'm from perching on a strong limb in Aunt Betty's yard;
Dreaming under the low fragrant branches of a pine tree;
And dancing in a dewey sun-dappled field of violets.

I'm from tangy corned-beef gravy over mashed potatoes;
Saturday night canned baked beans with molasses;
And pineapple rings nestled under a scoop of cottage cheese.

I'm from, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well";
"Moderation in all thngs";
And "A penny saved is a penny earned."

I link my present with my past by:
Jotting feelings onto endless blue-lined pages;
Gluing photos into scrapbooks;
And piecing swatches of fabric into quilts.

lisa June 24, 2006 8:52 PM  

Okay, here's mine:

I am from a little TV that rolls into my room when I'm sick, from Roman Meal Bread and apple juice popsicles.

I am from the big house with two attics, and endless hallways where hamsters and children play. Covered in briars, I am from the woods, trying to find my way home.

I am from tulips and marigolds, and the big tree outside my window that might, just might, get struck by lightning. I am from a bed with Holly Hobby covers, staying awake to keep an eye on the tree.

I am from family meetings and special birthday cakes, from Dick and Carol and Jennifer.

I am from crossword puzzles and coupons, and housework on Saturdays.

From don't pick your scabs on the way to the pool, and home again home again, jiggety jog on the way home.

I am from the minister and the seeking spirit. Walking to church and watching for snakes between the steps. Giggling in Sunday School and being quiet at Friends meeting, because Mom will be proud of me.

I'm from Cranston, Orange and DeWitt, and from the coal mines of Pennsylvania. From powdered milk and stale brownies in Grandma's cupboard.

From the screaming toddler who asks, “Are you disappointed of me, Mommy?” and the big sister that writes “Dear So-Called Tooth Fairy,” when the tooth gets lost down the drain.

I am from scrapbooks, falling apart and tied back together, boxes in the attic, and file folders. I am on walls and on desks, and sometimes, accidentally, I am in yard sales.

*****

Things in yours that I considered but left out: The fact that the TV was black and white and on a rickety cart, waxed paper, Grandpa praying, moving boxes never unpacked, and eating rice for the children of Cambodia.

Things we both touched on: The TV, the big house, the woods, snakes, Saturday rituals, Sunday School, brownies, coal mining, scrapbooks.

Sandy June 24, 2006 9:44 PM  

Jen,
Beautifully written.
I know you and your family KNOW how blessed you are that you are so close and are able to share all things with each other so easily. Cherish it...not all families have that.

Food Mum June 25, 2006 12:41 AM  

Hi, I just came here from Veronica's blog, and thought I'd check in so you wouldn't wondering who's visiting you from South Africa when you look at Sitemaster! Is it you who've been visiting me from South America? Now I have to look at my map!

Jennifer June 25, 2006 8:33 AM  

Things in yours [Lisa's] that I considered but left out:

My childhood bedspread, family meetings, UU (well, you put Friends meetings but still), powdered milk, that the brownies were stale (in a good way) and kept in the cupboard (remember the tin?)

I like how yours is about the actual day-to-day experiences. Mine was a little broader, I guess trying to get it all in, but I don't like that you're not specifically mentioned, even though you were the other half of a lot of the things I did mention.

Jennifer June 25, 2006 8:33 AM  

Hi Food Mum! No, that wasn't me, but here I come...I like your picture, by the way :)

Food Mum June 27, 2006 1:29 PM  

I had a go at this too, it's hard to get in everything and still make it a poem, I love the way everyone has done it differently too and added there own extras. I'll post mine soon when I've tweaked a bit more.

mom June 27, 2006 7:41 PM  

Liz and I are sometimes in touch. We are both leaving our jobs with the public schools and embarking on different educational roles . . . I shared your poem and mine (Lisa hadn't done one yet) with her. She wrote:

"How beautiful! I got weepy and goosebumped!
I still call the red house the Tuckers', so it was nice to see jen's memory of it too...
I think my mom would love to write one of those!"

In response I sent her the template.

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