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Bethany Dawson

Author // Writer // Editor

Where I am From

April 26, 2020

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The space that this season has opened is fertile ground for creativity. As my sense of responsibility to the things I ‘should’ be doing falls away, I am left with a desire to write.

I read a poem last week by Appalachian poet, George Ella Lyon, entitled ‘Where I’m From’. It begins:

‘I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch…’

It is the distillation of a life in 29 lines of exquisite poetry. I wanted to write my own. I decided that a study of my roots might better prepare me to grow into whatever this next season requires.

I relished the challenge of editing my early years into restrained syntax. It has taken weeks of writing and re-writing; the current version is a fluid thing.

If you’re the writing kind, perhaps you might enjoy this exercise. Put as many paragraphs on paper as you can; hold nothing back. Close your notebook. Come back to it the next day and begin to carve a path through your history that holds on to the truest details. Do the same the next day and the next. Read what is left. You may need to add to it or start all over again. You will most certainly learn something about yourself that you did not already know.

Where I am From

I am from fields of potatoes,
sit still, hosanna and praise.
I am from preoccupation,
teller of elaborate tales.

I am from tall Jacaranda,
teacher, evangelist and book.
I am from expatriation,
Maxi’s and Eskimo Hut.

I am from boughs of Horse Chestnut,
Eve and the one who drew water.
I am from wild expectation,
the hurt of a Minister’s daughter.

I am from humus and silence,
tap root, mycelium and muck.
I am from decomposition,
sowing and reaping a glut.

I am from rising groundwater,
the things I cannot outrun.
I am from deep fermentation.
It is over; it has only begun.

Where are you from?

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