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Where I'm From

Poem by George Ella Lyons, used with permission of the author.

Jo Carson is a Southern writer with deep roots—in her case to the town and even the house in East Tennessee where her grandparents lived before her. Her sense of place and roots led her to write a book of poems based on conversations she overheard around her. Jo Carson's friend George Ella Lyons was inspired by one of these poems. She jotted down her own images of where she came from, and then made the poem "Where I'm From." Since then, the poem has been used around the world as a writing prompt, helping both adults and children write poems made up of images of where they are from.

Here is the poem "Where I'm From:"

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'm 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 a 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.

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Last updated on Monday, October 20, 2014.

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