Several years ago, I took on a writing challenge to create a poem from a template with the resulting work informing readers about myself and my family history. This is the result, a poem I had the privilege of reading at my father’s funeral. I regret he never had the opportunity to read it before he passed away. But then, Dad also knew where he was from.
Where are you from?
I am from buttered bread
sometimes with Welch’s jam.
I am from the hand pump on the back porch
that spewed out ice-cold water
and you weren’t really thirsty
but you had to take
your Saturday night bath.
I am from the lily of the valley
growing under the lilac bushes,
the scent sucked in just before
you gave them to Mama
who loved them more than you.
I am from Sunday morning nip and tuck.
Dawdling ‘round from Uncle Bud,
cousin Toad and his counterpart, the Frog.
I am from the way we tease and laugh out loud.
From “Stop that squirming”
and “Bow your head.”
I am from a Bible Mama plum wore out.
From Daddy’s faithful Christmas and Easter Sabbaths.
I’m from the middle of a little bitty place
and a rich Christian heritage
across the Rhine River in Germany.
From fried chicken. And apple pie
in a bowl with milk poured on.
From the toddler who drank fuel oil
putting scare into us all;
a vision of stomach pumps not quite real.
From the backyard wedding of my sister
and a reception in the woods where we
ate picnic style licking barbecue from our fingers.
I am from the tattered black pages of an album
Dad pulls out on his little whims.
Repeating names I’ve heard a thousand times
but won’t remember, he tells me I am from
these folks of buttered bread, hand pumps,
laugh out loud, and worn out Bibles.
copyright by Paula Geister 2005