where i am from

'come to where I'm from'

credit – painesplough

We have returned to our regular writing inside VT program with women inmates at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, VT.

Last week, we wrote from George Ella Lyon’s wonderful poem titled “Where I’m From.” This simple phrase is rich with possibility.

The eight women who returned to the circle after a summer hiatus seemed hungry to put pen to paper once more, most of them writing a full page in the 15 minutes provided.

The sense of place – both the physical and emotional places of childhood – stay with us at deep sensory levels throughout our lives. Words from our windowless room confirmed these roots of ‘memory and moments,’ as one woman wrote. Diversity and depth describe the variety of experiences that formed each of us around the table.

With just a few words captured from each reader, the following poem shares a microcosm of where these women, collectively, are from. Each stanza condenses the words from a single woman’s writing.

I am from time to get washed up,
rainbow on a fast track to down town –
I love this part! – and
will anyone want me now.

I am from hot cocoa of childhood memories
shedding my layers of right and wrong,
from grace and from sorrow,
from ME.

I am from pregnant silence
of a mother who pulled motherhood from me
eating secrets,
the fruit that rolled far from home.

I am from one mother given to another,
getting lost to always being found
a forbidden ritual,
a work in progress to return home upon completion.

I am from turnips and roses,
that chair is not a carnival ride
and all the things he told me not to do.
He was right about the oranges.

I am from a strong recovering woman
who accepts all and does not judge me
rolling around like a grasshopper
rich with love, not material things.

I am from you, the woman I want to be
who doesn’t live with shame,
the woman my mom became
and the strength who always knew I could.

I am from the innocence of old –
jumping from the hayloft
formerly known as short street;
that familiar structure is where I long to be.

I am from a family with a lot of dying
a person who feels like crying every day,
and from people who care about me.

I am from a lavender city, birches and a claw foot tub,
water with stars and fear of fire;
Nana’s fingers that refused to let go
the hidden prison, hunger sewn into my DNA.

2 thoughts on “where i am from

    • sarahwbartlett says:

      Thank you, Mary – wonderful to read your words first thing this morning! I used this prompt way back at the beginning of wiVT; one of our long-time writers’ version is in the book. By chance, she is back inside for a bit and wrote to it again last week. She was so eager to compare the two!!!


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