Sunday, August 19, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Where I'm Really From

As you know, I was gettin' my dance on at the Folkfest last Sunday, so all my poetry was in motion instead of on this blog. The music I love best is the kind that makes me want to move, on the dance floor and beyond. Ozomatli and Michael Franti and Spearhead had a revolutionary spirit that lit me on fire! I'm always inspired whenever I hear musicians and public figures channel their anger or frustration into thoughtful discourse.

Unfortunately, I think every activist starts out with some anger that isn't always channeled well. When I was a young upstart at University of Maryland, a conversation with a total stranger at Kinko's lit me on fire in a different way. Dude actually thought he was going to get my phone number, even though he spoke to me as if we lived on different planets. I think he realized his mistake when I started turning purple with rage. I got yelly and it got ugly.

Once I calmed down, I wrote the first version of this poem in November 1997. That version was published in dis*orient literary magazine in 1998. I revised this poem in June 2005, to make it just a touch more universal, and perhaps more thoughtfully angry.

Where I’m Really From

“I’m from Rockville,” you introduced.
“I’m from Baltimore,” I replied.
“No, where are you really from?” you insisted.

Where am I really from?

I am from a time
when exotic is an orchid
not a synonym for beauty
when Oriental is a rug
not a person from Asia
when butterfly is an insect
not a promise of sex.

I am from a place
where it is enough
that I am from Baltimore
where you do not demand
that I must be from Other
where we can just talk
like fellow human beings.

I am from my father’s loins.
I am from my mother’s womb.

Where are you really from?

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