Where I’m From (Inspired by George Ella Lyon)

Some of you may have seen George Ella Lyon’s gorgeous, moving poem Where I’m From. If you haven’t, go here but then please come back.

Now, after reading my thoughts below, do yourself, your well-being, and everyone around you a favor and use this form to guide you in writing something of your own.

And then please, please share it with us.


Where I’m From

A Miner with a Head Lamp Works Inside the Csa Coal Mine at Karvina by James P. BlairI am from coal, the black diamond, from the depths of the earth, from the veins of life mined by my ancestors so that I would never have to, those who toiled away sotto terra as their wives worked hard at home or in factories hoping to never hear the whistle call them to the breaker in the middle of a work day.

From Big Ben’s blue birch beer, a taste so unique and delicious, only a chosen few have ever had the pleasure.

I am from a quaint, white house with a brick-colored porch, off on its own on a block of row homes, rebuilt by my family after a fire destroyed it, smelling often of garlic and onions, but also of fresh-baked everything.

I am from the spider fern, launching its branches far and wide, hoping that someone, somewhere will take in a baby off-shoot, plant it and nurture it.

Calla Lily Turned Away, 1923 by Georgia O’KeefeThe lily, the gorgeous lily that was a fixture in the house at Easter time, sitting in front of the fireplace, dying with each passing day but bringing such joy to all who saw her.

I am from Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house, squeezing into the kitchen, eating baked ham, potato salad, cheese, meats, and so many sweet pickles and black olives, I thought I might burst.

And different shades of dark hair from my mom and my dad and my brother.

I am from the daily dinner table shouting (not in a good way) and keeping feelings inside, quiet, and out of view (except for the shouting).

From the “no soda before noon” rule and stories of what is was like to grow up as an immigrant family in America in the 1930s and 40s.

I am from a strong base of Catholics, with a slight dose of agnostic, and have come to follow a similar path. I am from a study of many world religions and finding some of each that bring me at peace with the world, and yet complete failing to understand how so many religious people hate so much and so many in the name of one god or another.

Dove of Peace by Pablo PicassoI am from the desire to learn, to understand, to love, to be loved, and from the wish that we all, truly, can live in harmony.

I’m from a small town in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, from Lithuanians, Italians, and Germans, from pierogies, gnocchi, and sauerkraut.

From the great-great-grandfather who was saved from a bull by his trusty black mutt, the aunt who constantly changed her first name because she didn’t like her given one, and the father who served in Vietnam.

I am from an accordion-file folder back in the States, a wall in my brother’s house, and a small black-and-white photo album here with me—a collection of family pictures, documents, stories, and history that are worth little monetarily, but that couldn’t possibly mean more to me.

Mere et fille by Stephane De BourgiesA struggle of one family that has moved around the world, been laborers and professionals, helped build countries, fought wars, healed the sick, played professional sports, cooked for the masses, touched the hearts of many, seen the best and worst of people, experienced many successes as well as failures, but, most importantly, persevered as a unit, as a family.


Reminder: check out Judith‘s Chicken Pot Pie for La Buona Cucina Americana!

Buon weekend!

45 Beans of Wisdom to “Where I’m From (Inspired by George Ella Lyon)”
  1. 03.28.2008

    Wow. Love it! I’ll try it – maybe…

    Cherrye’s last blog post..Un Segno di Dio

    Yes yes do it!

  2. 03.28.2008

    That was beautiful. The recipe seems to have worked!

    running42k’s last blog post..Friday Feast

    Glad you liked it; I look forward to reading yours 🙂

  3. 03.28.2008

    That is a great story Michelle. And BTW…I love me the birch beer!!! I have relatives in Valley Forge area…and we used to guzzle the stuff when we visited 🙂

    Buon weekend!!

    My Melange’s last blog post..Plume Plume

    You’re in the select few! Woohoo!

  4. 03.28.2008

    Truly beautiful!

    nova’s last blog post..5 Unusual Things

    Thank you Nova 🙂

  5. 03.28.2008

    I have seen this form used before but never the real poem … thank you for teaching me something new today. I loved learning about the places you are from and you inspire me to create my own.

    ciao and grazie!

    Signora Pazzo’s last blog post..My First Thursday Thirteen

    So happy to point you in the real poem’s direction! Look forward to reading yours Signora 🙂

  6. 03.28.2008

    wow, that was fun! I’ve never seen that poem before, and the “recipe” for doing something similar looks fun. I might try it after I have more coffee…

    kacey’s last blog post..Field Trip on Vacation

    Coffee is definitely necessary Kacey…can’t wait to read it!

  7. vanessa

    i am going to try that. Later. Will let you read it if you don’t post it on your blog…

    Great post. It really reminds me of the Maori tradition of quoting their whole family tree (whakapapa) when meeting someone new. Goes along the same lines starting with x is my sea/ beach, y is my mountain/ valley, z is my lake/ river, then through all their tribal links before moving on through the names of the family members starting back as far as you know, and finally ending with yourself last. Is very moving and gives the sense that you are literally the end of a line with a very big history behind you. Vanessa

    That is so beautiful! I would love to read yours, and I promise I won’t publish anything 🙂

  8. Michelle, this was really moving.


    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday – Diana Ross – “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” (Theme From Mahogany)

    Thanks A; it was definitely a great writing exercise too!

  9. 03.28.2008

    That was lovely and very poignant, Michelle! Thank you for sharing a bit more about yourself with all of us. I may have to give that poem a try. 🙂 Happy weekend!

    Christina Arbini’s last blog post..Wax On, Wax Off

    Thanks Christina; I do hope you’ll give this one a go!

  10. 03.28.2008

    That was beautiful! I really enjoyed yours. I actually posted my own about ago as well.

    Karina’s last blog post..Spring in New England – Follow-Up Friday

    Ooh I must’ve missed it; I’ll come looking now!

  11. 03.28.2008

    UH, that was meant to say about a week or so ago…;-)

    Karina’s last blog post..Spring in New England – Follow-Up Friday

    Gotcha, and now I’ve found yours too:

    Candid Karina’s Where I’m From

  12. 03.28.2008

    I love this! Might give it a try sometime.

    Gill’s last blog post..Cape Trip – Part One

    Please do Gill!

  13. 03.28.2008

    That was lovely Michelle! I so enjoyed reading it and learning more about you. You’re a great writer. I think I may give it a try over the next couple of days and post my own. Thanks for the form! Have a wonderful weekend!

    I look forward to it Robin; please let me know when you post it!

  14. 03.28.2008

    Sognatrice, I haven’t gone over to read George Ella Lyon’s poem yet, I wanted to experience yours on its own terms first. I am glad I did. Yours is lovely. It is amazing, the power of your words, the memories that rush back to me, the smells, the textures, the feelings, the history that pulsates through us all.

    Thank you for this.

    witnessing am i’s last blog post..Father

    Thank you for reading and for your wonderful words 🙂

  15. 03.28.2008

    I really enjoyed reading your “I am from” post. Being from Penna. too -as you know -I found so many similarities of where you are from to what would be my own. Great job.

    Jeni Hill Ertmer’s last blog post..Crash Landing

    Thanks Jeni; I love reading these because I’ve found similarities and commonalities in just about every one I’ve seen. An amazing revelation indeed.

  16. 03.28.2008

    Absolutely beautiful post. What a wonderful project. I’m definitely going to try this!

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Wijvenweek/What’s Cooking Wednesday: The Ideal Man

    Thanks Jen; very much looking forward to reading yours.

  17. 03.28.2008

    I hope you don’t mind, but my blog entry today was directing people to this post. I love the idea of writing your own poem! Thanks!

    Piecake’s last blog post..Borrowing Someone Else’s Post

    A true honor Piecake! Thank you 🙂

  18. 03.28.2008

    Beautiful poem! I am totally stealing this project to do with my middle school students…

    anno’s last blog post..Public Service Announcement

    Will make for some fabulous poems I’m sure!

  19. 03.28.2008

    That’s very, very nice, Michelle. I hope you show your family. I think it would make them proud (and probably make them cry, the good way.)

    Also, thank you for linking to the original poem which, you’re right, is superb. I’ve never even heard of that poet before.

    Thank you so much for sharing all of it. 🙂

    So happy you enjoyed Sara, and yes some family members will definitely see it and I hope will appreciate it. I hadn’t heard of this poet either until this poem, so I feel lucky to have come across this as well.

  20. 03.28.2008

    I love this Michelle! What a fabulous glimpse into who you are… and how you got to be that way! Thanks so much for sharing it. 🙂

    Dory’s last blog post..Friday Five

    So happy you liked it Dory; it was truly a pleasure to write 🙂

  21. 03.29.2008

    This is a great post. I loved reading where you came from.

    Shan’s last blog post..don’t quote me

    Thanks Shan; glad you liked it 🙂

  22. 03.29.2008

    You write beautifully. Thank you for stopping by, and link, and thank you for the lovely read. The beer sounds intriguing.

    susiej’s last blog post..A letter to the Class of 1958

    Thank you for coming by SusieJ! Also note that it’s “birch beer,” kind of like root beer only better (and definitely non-alcoholic!) 😉

  23. 03.29.2008

    Oh my goodness!!! When I was in high school (Okay, only a few years ago) my creative writing teacher gave us an assignment which was exactly this–Write a “Where I’m From” poem using the exact style of George Ella Lyon’s. This excited me a little too much when I saw your post about it, heh.

    Holly’s last blog post..Earth Hour 2008

    Glad to bring back a great memory Holly! It’d be interesting to write one of these every few years to see how our perspective changes as well….

  24. 03.29.2008

    This is beautiful. I will try to write something of my own as soon as possible. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Tarie’s last blog post..Linky Linky

    I look forward to reading it Tarie 🙂

  25. Ariana

    So pretty and poetic. You have a wonderful way with words! A joy to read your blog. Grazie from Chicago

    Why thank you Ariana; nice to see you 🙂

  26. 03.29.2008

    this was so moving, so expressive, so disclosing in the best way…
    that i had to read it 2 times,
    2 TIMES!


    going to check out the links.
    {you always find the best ones}

    somepinkflowers’s last blog post..earth hour every hour starting with the SUN

    I’m so flattered and honored and well, thanks 🙂

  27. 03.29.2008

    You are really quite something kid – you know that?
    Really quite something.
    Much bloglove,

    Frances’s last blog post..a list of my lists so far

    Aw thanks Frances; I think you’re pretty special yourself 😉

  28. 03.29.2008

    I’m not sure what happened…I commented on this before, but my comment disappeared. Hmm.

    Anyway, I think you did an amazing job with this. Loved it.

    I did a version of this back in late ’06. Here it is, if you’re interested:



    J’s last blog post..Now we are…TWELVE?

    Huh. I thought maybe it had gone to spam, but it wasn’t there either; so glad you came back and left your link! I look forward to reading it 🙂

  29. 03.30.2008

    I love it! Its a great way to learn more about you. I’ll give it some thought and see if I can also do it!

    Ginny’s last blog post..GO HEELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Definitely try it Ginny! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  30. Thank you for sharing more of yourself through this beautiful writing. I had to read it twice. The second time was even better.
    Also, thanks for the link on Lyon’s poem.

    Thank you so much for your kind words, and I’m always happy to share links as wonderful as this one 🙂

  31. 03.30.2008

    Great to read all these titbits. What a wonderful idea for a poem! 🙂

    Seamus’s last blog post..A Shameless Graffito (N°7)

    Glad you enjoyed it Seamus! Nice to see you around again 🙂

  32. 03.30.2008

    Beautifully written! I love this meme, and I did it myself about a year ago. 🙂

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog. It was great to hear from you!

    Starshine’s last blog post..Dad Update 2

    Thanks for coming by Starshine; nice to see you as well 🙂

  33. 03.30.2008

    Very lyrical and exceedingly well done. I may indeed have to give this a go. I thought the opening was especially powerful, with the very touch imagery of coal and the earth, together with the wives hoping that they wouldn’t be called by the untimely whistle. Excellent.

    Billy’s last blog post..Tracks

    Thank you Billy, and thanks for stopping by; I look forward to visiting your place.

  34. 03.30.2008

    Where you are from are all of the reasons I care for you as a person. You promote harmony Sogtrice. You are appreciated by me and many!!


    rochambeau’s last blog post..Soul Surroundings

    Aw thank you Constance; that is very kind of you to say 🙂

  35. 03.30.2008

    I didn’t think I had read that poem before, but once I started reading it it all sounded so familiar that I must have at some point.

    I’ve shared this exercise with my journaling groups, and I’m going to do it myself in a blog post in the next day or two.

    Nnna’s last blog post..Zen and the Art of Chilli Cheese

    I love yours too! I tried to comment on it in your journal, but couldn’t get it to work….

  36. 03.31.2008

    Wow, you did an awesome job with this, I could really feel your history. What a great history, too, complete with the yelling at the dinner table! I’d love to do it, but don’t know if I could do justice to the poem like you did. I’ll let you know if I try! 🙂

    Waiting for Zufan’s last blog post..What big teeth you have!

    I know you can work wonders with this; I would love to read it so do let me know!

  37. 03.31.2008

    Wow that was powerful and gave such huge insight as to where you’ve come from.

    Thank you for reading and commenting Erin 🙂

  38. 03.31.2008

    This is beautiful indeed. I always come by to see what you are up to, and I never leave empty handed. I do not always comment -I know, bad blogger!- but I always enjoy my visits. I will like to try this some time, if I do, I will let you know.

    Beatriz’s last blog post..Twenty-five years later

    Thank you Beatriz; it’s always nice to see you here when you have a moment to comment–and do let me know if you write one of these!

  39. Dana

    What a beautiful, poetic post. I might have to give this a try myself.

    Please do Dana 🙂

  40. 04.02.2008

    This is so…so…so beautiful! I love your version. Just beautiful.

    I’m going to attempt this, maybe tomorrow.

    Lulu’s last blog post..Lightening My Load

    Thanks Lulu; I look forward to reading yours 🙂

  41. Oh this is so beautiful!! Do you write poetry? You are very talented with words! I want to try to do this …

    I don’t write poetry, but this was such a fun exercise. Let me know if you write one!

  1. Where I Am From... If you've ever read George Ella Lyon's poem, Where I'm From, then you'll ... kelliestes.com/blog/index.php?/archives/137-Where-I-Am-From.html
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  2. [...] found a beautiful way to express who you are from this post at Bleeding Espresso.  It’s a poem by... luluslaundryblog.com/2008/04/03/that%e2%80%99s-where-i-come-from
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