I Am From
I am from a field
Where colors are brassy and warm.
I am from the dirt roads sparsely filled with diesels
Where washing your hands after being outside is required to eat dinner.
I am from a Blue’s Clues house
Where flowers cover every crevice of the yard.
I am from a pebble in the larger scheme of life
But still, we grow the food on your plates.
I am from loving hands
The ones that made the blankets I sleep under with patience and practice.
I am from the open skies
Where stars shine brighter than any city lights.
I am from God
And the tiny town that showed me His love.
I am from people
As everyone is a piece of the people they meet and experiences had.
I am the cuffed sweatshirt sleeves of my closest friend.
I am the serendipity of my friendships.
I am the giggle of my mother.
I am the love of my neighbors.
I am from my home
No matter who or where that may be.
Where I Come From
I come from Hatfield land where legend is a close neighbor,
where old Devil Anse Hatfield will git you if you break the rules or disobey your elders;
where someone you know is a cousin, nephew, step-brother, half-sister — part of the original clan;
where a taller than life-sized statue, cut in creamy carrerra marble, stands high on the closest hill, amid pokeberry and poison ivy, surveying all that was once his land;
where occasional tourists climb a weeded path to show respect or swap stories about the feud.
I come from a haunted place.
I come from creeks and valleys and hollers, narrow as a ribbon,
some reached through noisy streams and muddy climbs,
shaded by the color of poplars and sugar maples,
infused with the scent of rotting earth.
I come from deep pools of creek water where we were baptized in the fall and swam in summer in spite of warnings about water moccasins.
I come from hillbillies,
barely educated families who ate the food they grew,
passed down used clothes and shoes, well past dreaming of a future.
I come from men who drilled seams of black coal,
and women who served beers to drooling customers with broken backs and nameless sins.
I come from one-room churches,
where women were saved at the front altar and,
teens, in the back row, leafed through hymnals and Bibles
whispering under the bed to song titles like Softly and Tenderly or words like Jesus Saves under the bed.
I come from furnished apartments and coal camp houses,
where front porches and windows, imprinted with carbon soot,
required repeated cleaning each day,
where we played hide and seek in alleyways
and threw eggs and firecrackers on Halloween.
I come from a mother who knew nothing about her birth family,
who suffered from what doctors called “nerves,”
and who treated her with valium and lithium,
while she treated herself to alcohol and sad escapes from our family life.
I come from a father who labored underground and who always took her back.
I come from a time where trouble came from within families
and kids were parceled out for protection;
where alcohol drained life from strong men and fragile women.
I come from hot summers working on my grandmother’s farm in the Knobs of Virginia,
a home without running water or indoor niceties,
time spent working tobacco fields, hiding in apple orchards, learning to dream;
a place where I felt needed and free.
I come from teachers who told me I was smart,
that I needed to read and study and stay in school.
I come from schools here and there, each year a different one, a different state,
learning about the wider world, and about loneliness
and being on my own from an early age,
grasping at friendships, bundling into others’ families for warmth.
I come from a moonshining grandmother who carried a gun,
who loaned money and gave respite,
who fed and clothed those who needed it,
bought votes at election time to ensure her point of view,
who knew most people’s secrets,
and used her power to protect and get even.
I come from the unrestrained yet tough love of this grandmother,
who taught me to be strong,
to stand up for what I believed,
to care for others.
I may not be of her seed but I am of her heart.
I Am from
I’m from an ex-coal mining town that was neglected with time
Devoured by injustice and Maggie Thatcher’s class crimes
Monkey dust, spice- a narcotics buffet
Drugs are the home in your head when you’ve no house to stay
Community crushed and we’re looking for love
Searching for connection that’s not a drunken kiss in a club
Staring out your bedroom window and you’re hungry for more
Empty feeling in your stomach, its not just cause you’re poor
It’s the shift work, taxes, the “community” online
But a screen can’t replace a human soul and a mind
It’s safe behind a screen and realities hard
But don’t blame social media, it’s not what’s tearing us apart
It’s the neoliberal system that steals your labour and art
It’s the landlords and the rich and the ones who’re in charge
But it is us that can break it and keep our community’s heart.
I am from generations of abuse, of addiction, and fear
I am from the workers, the poor, I’m from blood sweat and tears
I’m from a father with a shit life that he ended with rope
I’m from a mother who was crushed and alone with no hope
I’m from a city that I love, but the spirit is dead
I had to flee the trap, and it was to Bristol I fled;
The beating heart of action, of a people that fight
Creative visionaries and passion that will lead us to light
Whilst people lose faith and only fight for themselves,
Our communities in Bristol will destroy this capitalist hell.