Recently, at a public school, on display in a public hallway, I found some examples of 7th grade writing with the topic “I’m From…..”, and some of them broke my heart. Inspired by their courage, I decided to write one of my own when I got home, and here’s what I came up with.
I’m from slow dancing and lascivious kisses in the back seat of a Hudson, potatoes and eggs with no meat set to the tune of love me tender. I’m from honky-tonks and dance halls, with country swing a relief from the goose-step of war, from which children ran chemically scalded, naked and screaming for all the world to see.
From a handsome hillbilly in uniform, son of a rodeo rider and migrant farm worker married a little too long to a harsh German ranch cook—and the insecure daughter of a mathematical engineer married briefly for lust to a buxom red-headed hair stylist, seeking escape from criticism and competition by way of a poodle skirt and legs up to there.
I’m from the pledge of allegiance and the bitter war of divorce, where children are used as pawns in the game of alienation, forced to choose sides—we who are legion and to whom the Bush speech-writers spoke in the famous “If you’re not for us, you’re against us” speech that we understood with our very genes.
I’m from those so bursting with life that mere bodies could not contain them, who left by train, trigger, rooftop and drink—and from those left behind, already dead yet unable to hold still long enough for a proper burial.
I’m from encyclopedia Brittanica and Playboy, Leo Tolstoy and Larry Flynt, George Orwell and Hugh Hefner, a place where classic literature and porno live together without benefit of marriage or even a coexist bumper sticker.
I’m from Johnny Cash and Rachmaninoff, Hank Williams and The Ohio Players, Led Zeppelin and Chopin, AC/DC and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. I’m from Art Laboe , painted-on eyebrows, kroker sacks, khakis and suspenders, from credibility costumes, ball gowns and bikinis.
I’m from “Roots” and “All In The Family”, “Happy Days” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”, a place where universities, big business, chemical and atomic warfare and hand-to-hand combat in pursuit of profit are revered, where shame and power grow fat and are spoken of only in hushed tones. I’m from the opera, the theater, and skid row.
I’m from the universe– where I float in the healing waters of the ocean, hear birdsong erupt with the volcanic power of life in the forest, from country roads smelling of lavender, pine, and alfalfa. I’m from the place where people walk that thin line between love and hate like a tightrope, without a net. Where are you from?