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.