"Where I'm From", bogs, Chicago, childhood home, coyote howls, double-decker pizza, Dunkin' Donuts coffee, everglades, family, George Ella Lyon, grandma and grandpa, grandparents, great grandparents, Illinois, island of bones, Jack O' Lanters, Key West, mark the magician, memories, nostalgia, October Country, playing card games, poem, pumpkin pie, skull beads, St. Anthony, sugar skulls, tropics, vacation, Vincent Price, whence I came, writing exercise
There is a writing exercise you might try over HERE. It takes a George Ella Lyon poem, “Where I’m from,” and turns it into a sort of advanced ad-libs, where by you fill in some info and describe the places/people/events that formed you. My attempt is featured below. If you try your hand at it, post the result in the comments. I’d like to see where you’re from.
EDIT: Thanks to Martine for showing this to me.
-WHERE I’M FROM-
by Joshua Alan Doetsch
I am from the goblin roads, by the bog, where early A.M. mists tickle hands hanging out passenger windows, a thousand degrees colder than the surrounding summer night—from Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and the grinnin’ skull-bead bracelets my mother makes for me.
I am from the house with the shrieking-turquoise garage door, the tropical biosphere interior, impossible anomaly of the Midwest—waxen, Vincent Price sideshow bedroom—glamour photography by dad. From the wooded, backyard deck, the iron fire pit, listening to audio fiction, punctuated by coyote calls that sound like the second, fifth, and ninth steps of going insane.
I am from the whispering leaves, the groans-by-night corn.
I am from Jack O’ Lanterns picked fresh from the patch, at Great Grandma and Grandpa’s farm and playing card games by candlelight through tornado warnings, from my father, Mark the Magician; and my mother, Renee the Potter; and my brother, Nick the Pirate; and my sister, Danielle the Scream Queen—and every cross-hatched eccentricity—Bradford to Bradford—Doetsch by Doetsch.
I am from photographing gators in the Glades of Ever and walking ghost tours in Key West, which is really Cayo Hueso, which is really “Island of Bones,” which is really full of t-shirt shops and frozen drinks.
From the prayers to St. Anthony to find all things lost and the chewed stubs of the whole carrots left out for Santa’s reindeer the night before.
I am from the Catholic cross, the confessional, the Body and Blood. And then from the rum prayers, the happy macabre, the sugar skulls that hummed voodoo hymns to me on every Caribbean pilgrimage.
I’m from October Country, Chicago’s shadow, and Ray Bradbury dreams remixed—pumpkin pie and double-decker pizza that was divine until the restaurant owner was knifed by her son.
From the great grandparents, Lord and Lady of the Patch, who contrived a big sleep of exhaust, in a car in a parking lot—when their minds and bodies began to go—together forever, and the other great grandma, Mima, who was a writer, who told me to write, who died while I was away, waking to our van surrounded by bison in Yellowstone.
I am from inside my head, where I hang it all so prettily upon my hueso walls.
Zachary Forsythe. said:
I am from a skeleton key that has no door, and a pocket watch that doesn’t run, from antique stores and lying awake wishing I had been born a hundred years ago.
I am from the farm house turned home, from the barn turned two story garage. From a neighborhood with nights blacker than I have ever seen since, from conquering my fear of the dark by standing alone in my backyard, just breathing, until day broke. From mastering an axe to make fuel for a rusted barrel autumn after autumn, before laying in bed with my face pressed to the window screen breathing in sync with the breeze.
I am from the smell of burning leaves, the hiss of vengeance as the survivors crept across the street, and the otherworldly alliums in the garden proclaiming the truth in Dr Suess’ words with playful bobbing.
I am from the late night murder mysteries with English tea, nursing my mind on the words of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Nero Wolfe. I am from a family of suicides and exiles, where nearly every other night I commiserated with my father over coffee from blue speckled mugs, sitting in the dark, the both of us shaking off nightmares. From James the butcher who has mastered a new hobby every couple of months since he was 20, from Susan who never gave up being a mother despite her crippling depression. The Forsythes, the forgotten clan. The fighters against ruin.
I am from “never look away”, I am from “work as hard as you can, so you can play without guilt”.
I am from my faith which withered and died no matter how desperately nurtured it. I am from the fear of oblivion.
I am from October Country, from raw flame kissed steaks and wooden handled cutlery, from rhubarb pie and whole milk the consistency of blood.
I am from uncle Rob, who tried to kill his sister -whose name I’ve never heard spoken- with a white dusted drywall hammer while at his fathers funeral, from his older brothers who stopped him. I am from a dozen card carrying members of AA. I am from a sister who attacked those that loved her so savagely and with such frequency, that she was written out of our lives, another exile, another name not to speak.
I am from a family who passes on tradition by word of mouth, where my top hat is appreciated, and I can listen to Django Reinhardt when the mood strikes me. We keep pictures, in the top shelf of an unassuming closet of every Forsythe house, because we were always told not to look away.
-ok so I honestly never realized how all of this sounds when you put it together until just now. The hardest part was not saying more. There is so much to say.
Very cool. Yeah, I had trouble not saying more. The first draft of it was very bloated (it still is a bit). I think it needs to be at first. You fill it with all that stuff, then trim, then realize it’s kind of a vertical slice of your life–you find the key details, and jumping from detail to detail, the reader will still get some sense of all that info you cut away (the jump from A to C forces one to imagine the B).
Ethan Kincaid said:
I must do this when I have a spare moment. It looks like fun!
Give it a try and post the results!