Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Where are you from?

Flowing Hair by Henri Matisse

[ The lady behind the restaurant counter asks me:
"You look lovely this afternoon where are you from?"

Yes - without a comma or a full stop she asks me:
"You look lovely this afternoon where are you from?"

As always, I fumble for a response to these four words:
Where are you from?

And then there is loveliness
Is loveliness and where I am from related?

I fumble for the first geographical wave that comes to mind.

For "Where am I from?"]


I am from this ground I am standing on.
I am here now. I am from here.
I think of the mythical tree which grows
roots from wherever it is uprooted and rerooted.

I am from this little box I call home
From the blue bedroom I dream in
to the yellow kitchen I cook in, the dining table
which lives parallel lives as a workstation and
an artist's desk overlooking the petunias smiling
in an inverted old lampshade pot.

I am from this study room with a french window
opening to a big tree - the tree whose name
I do not know, but which I love.
The one on which two baby squirrels
dance, play and nap all day long.

I am from the living room with its multi color carpet
and painting with blown up red
flowers - flowers whose name
I don't know, but which I love. The
one I look at to escape to a bed a flowers with soft
green cushion looking at the blue colored sky


I am from the street I turn on to reach home.
The sidewalks. Resident's only parking spaces. The red light.
The bus stop. Wild yellow flower forcing its way through concrete.
Tall trees which have been here since
long before anyone I know has existed.

I am from the sub-division with its underground
drainage system. The rising and falling
property values. The neighborhood plan and
historic preservation. The advisory groups and
residential conservation areas.
I am from the great city. The great falls road. The farmer's
market. The boards and commissions. The council for dog license
and now waived cat license. The coyote coexistence.
The garden plot rental.

I am from the great state. The queen state.
The monumental state. The free state.
The one which claims many big deeds -
It hopes you too will be pleased.
Founding father of chocolate and chewing gum of self help,
The pink punk pony, fat fish and eloquent elephant.
They were all from here.

I am from the greatest country in the world. The
one which is fastest, strongest, toughest. The
one which was destined to be the greatest. The
one which worked at it through longest works days
and shortest annual leaves. The one with the soul train,
the funk, the rap, the jazz, the country, the pop all rolled into one.
The one with silver diners and soup kitchens.

I am from the west. The wild wild west. The best of west
the land of dreams. The land of starting from scratch.
The land of I-don't care-who-your-father-was.


But wait. I was not born here

I am from across the oceans
The country I was born in
The capital I was born in
It is not even a state but a union territory

I am from that subdivision
That city
That tall building I spent a decade in
before I grew my own wings
I am from my parents house
I am from the room I painted pink
I am from the mirror who saw me dance
I am from the workstation of my first job
I am from where my parents grew

I am from where my parents spent their childhood.
Where my mother swung on a banyan tree swing
From the house from whose roof my father fell
when he was three. Unharmed from what eyes can see.


I am from everywhere I have been
From everywhere I will go
From the human ocean
The mammal ocean
The living ocean
The non living ocean
The star dust we all share

Yes. I am from the stars.


Take 1: Where are you from? Read Take 2 here.

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