Where I’m From 2018

Where I’m From 2018

I'm from the cries of families/ sundered at our southern border/ while
Lady Liberty faces a filthy sea. / I'm from "all [white able-bodied well-off
hetero] men are created equal" and 'Here/ Puerto Rico, have some paper
towels!'//I'm from our Predator-in-Chief/ who brags about grabbing
pussy/ and mocks a woman who was sexually abused. //I'm from 
countries we bombed or clear-cut/ or destabilized to get what we 
wanted./ I'm from the Seven Deadly Sins/ confused with the American 
Dream. //I'm from the whole Pilgrim whitewash/ our refusal to admit the 
land we stole/ the Indians we slaughtered, the Africans/ we chained to
build our wealth. I'm from/ their descendants, gunned down on the
street. I'm from/ children ripped from their parents' arms/ when the 
ship docked, at the auction block/ in the field. I'm from their blood and 
bones/ feeding the ground I stand on.


One tells your future by your palm
One tells your present by your feet
One frees the current in your spine
One sets your pelvis straight & neat
One hears the lostness of your days
One reads your words and holds them dear
One needle-maps the ancient ways
That chi flows when the path is clear
One springs the lock of your dream
One shares the wisdom of the wheel
One stands steady as you scream
Witnessing a truth that helps you heal
One shows a pose to make you strong
One leads that pose into a flow
One says Let go when you are wrong
One loves you more than you can know

Fast Forward

Cleaning out                    the middle
left-hand drawer            of the desk,
I came upon                    this picture
taken several           years from now.
Some of our           clothes look odd,
and not all                 of us are there.
The strange thing        is that I don’t
recall where this          is going to be
or why         we                will gather.
I can tell              somebody has told
the least ones                 to hold still.
They look frozen.       The rest of us
stand tired and        smiling. Family
features flow        through our faces.
It’s hard to tell if       one will be me.

Long Arm Poem

      First my arm wanted to go to the house in Harlan but stopped at 
the Pineville bridge. I thought I might get something from under that 
bridge, a lump of concrete or a piece of glass but my arm went on and on 
into the Tennessee hills, to that graveyard across the way from my Great 
Aunt Fanny’s daughter’s house. And what I picked up was a clod of red 
clay from the pile the gravedigger had made, “a right smart of dirt” 
Fanny’s daughter told him, though she didn’t think he had made the hole 
deep enough. He insisted it was just right, then told us, “There’s always 
more dirt comes out of a hole than you would think could be in it.”


  • George Ella Lyon’s recent poetry collections include She Let Herself Go, Many-Storied House and Voices from the March on Washington, co-written with J. Patrick Lewis. A freelance writer and teacher, Lyon is particularly interested in the poetry of witness. She served as Kentucky Poet Laureate (2015-2016). She is the co-founder, with Julie Landsman, of the I Am From Project, a national project to gather new poetry in response to the troubled state of the nation. See more at https://iamfromproject.com/about/.

  • Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino) in Santiago, Chile. Widely regarded as one of the best museums in Latin America, this unique museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts from ancient Central and South America, which underscores the rich cultural diversity and artistic splendor of the Pre-Columbian Americas. Images courtesy of WM Robinson.