The week our semester started, NPR published a crowd-sourced “Where I’m From” poem that included submissions from people all around the world. I admit that I am always relatively emotional at the beginning of a new semester, but I found myself crying happy tears listening to and then later reading this poem.
Knowing that I would ask my composition students to write a literacy narrative as the first project of the semester, I decided that one of our first in-class writing exercises would involve writing our own “Where I’m From” poems. I told students that if they wanted to revise and submit their essays to me they could, and over half of them submitted their poems. I wrote one too, and I was struck by the poignant memories I wrote about in this version of my “Where I’m From” poem. I found myself wishing that I kept each iteration of the poem that I’ve written over the years so that I could compare them to one another.
I was so impressed with my students’ poems that I decided we, too, needed a crowd-sourced poem. Combining them was a difficult task, and I ultimately took what may have been the easy path and only took two lines from each poem. Rather than playing editor, I should have given the poems to the students and had them create our class poem, but, selfishly perhaps, I wanted to choose some of my favorite lines.
So, here is a portrait of our writing community from the first week of the first semester of the first year of college at a university in southern Mississippi. Clearly it is going to be an exciting year of reading, writing, and learning with these humans.
We Are From
I am from road trips across I-10
From returning home to the sand, the water, the rocket launches.
I am from the magnolia flowers and the pine trees
Whose needles covered the ground like a burlap sack.
I am from the front step made of brick
(short, hard, scraping my knee).
I am from pink roses,
That haven’t bloomed the same since my grandmother passed.
I am from the oak tree, sitting firmly in the middle of my road,
giving me a point to turn my bike around.
I am from a white-picket-fence with Barbie dolls and dance classes
But got blown away by Katrina, the storm that washed it all away.
I am from a few roads hidden between this town and the next
From homemade cornbread and sweet peas.
I’m from early Sunday morning music, yet still making it to church late,
A memorized benediction and rarely missing a service.
I am from loud music, bounce music,
gumbo, crawfish, and red beans.
I am from a broken home
filled with beer cans and overdue bills.
I’m from the separation and remarriage
From Santa is real and God loves you.
I am from the givers and the sharers
From knowing to love all and not judging a book by its cover.
I am from black and gold Sundays
Where day drinking is encouraged and a tourist attraction.
I am from fourteen years of “Our Fathers” and plaid uniforms
Everyday same classmates, same teachers.
I am from yes ma’am and no ma’am and please and thank you.
From never give up and be kind to others.
I am from my own unfinished story that only I can complete,
because I am the main character.