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  • Amy Agape

Where I'm From: Poetry to Read and to Create

“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.



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