“I am from clothespins,
From Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride”
The first time I read these lines, I immediately began to feel them in my body. George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” is evocative of time, place, family, and community. It activates my senses and allows me to visit Lyon’s world even as it calls me to more closely study my own.
Here’s the piece in its entirety:
Where I’m From
George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch. (Black, glistening
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm
whose long gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
I am from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it -alls
and the pass -it -ons,
from perk up and pipe down.
I'm from He restoreth my soul
with cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.
I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures.
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments --
snapped before I budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.
Here is a link to the pdf, in case you would like to print it.
Many teachers use this poem to inspire young writers; there is even a template that can be used to create your own version following the structure of Lyon’s poem.
You need not follow the structure, though, to create your own Where I’m From masterpiece. Indeed, it may arrive in the form of a painting or dance, a costume or song. Whatever shape it takes, I invite you to consider creating your own homage and letting the world know Where You’re From.