I am from strength and salt water
The craggy Maine coast and a cottage called Whispering Hope
The home of my American grandparents
I am from gathered-up seashells and chipped sand dollars
Bright plastic pails of sand and squeaky styrofoam surfboards
The warm smell of slippery suntan oil and the chilly embrace of deep-blue waves

I am from tradition and reverence
The gentle Tamagawa hills and a house on Naramachi
The home of my Japanese obaachan—and the ojiichan I never knew
I am from plentiful bowls of steaming white rice
Hot tea, warm sake, and cool water
The sweet-sour taste of half-moon gyoza dipped in vinegar and soy sauce
I am from unpretentious beauty
My Lake Erie city, a Rust Belt town
Grounded in gritty goodness
Lined with majestic buildings and sturdy homes
Rising once again
And alive with new hopes
I am from every place I have ever wandered off to
Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Toronto, Chicago
All the airports and roads, street corners and cafes
from there back to here, and
in between

I am from a house filled with music
Chopin, Bach, Mahler, Baez, Cash, and the Beatles
With laughter from the television and around the kitchen table
The whirring of my mother’s sewing machine
Her hands guiding colorful fabric, another new dress for school
And the sound of my father’s voice, calmed by a shot of whiskey
Reading tenderly as we finally fell fast asleep 
Each night our bellies were full, our minds open
Ready to invite in more dreams
More plans for the coming day
I am grateful for having grown up
With all of this, some of that
In love.

I was inspired to write this after hearing the NPR segment, Where I’m From. The original poem, by George Ella Lyon, can be found here.


One day when I was young
My father whispered
Did you know
That the safest place
In all the world
Is in your papa’s arms?

I tucked the words inside my head
And went to bed each night

These are the days
I find myself half-smiling
Remembering those moments
Of happy whispered promises

And those endless childhood nights
When I never once
Dreamed of growing up.



We talked at the café
looking out into the night
sneaking serious glances
in between
playful smiles

I followed you home
and invited myself to
stay for a bit

(you didn’t seem to mind)

At your house you
finally let me in

(but only for a while)

I spied the bottle of whisky
underneath the desk in your office
way up in that lonely, messy

Your books on literature
were stacked on a shelf in the corner
of your private room

(one, on sonnets, was upside down)

We went downstairs
listened to music
you made me laugh
again and again

Then I saw
your melancholy eyes
and your flushed cheeks
after I knelt down to
kiss you and
feel your warmth
against my face

Time was suspended and I
slipped farther down
into the mystery
of our tangled, temporal

Seems you were
on my mind
that night and
some others

We were
lovers sometimes
enemies too

yet even in friendship
I often ached
to understand