Where I’m from 

after George Ella Lyons 

I’m from the family that doesn’t talk about it.
I’m from bruises under shirtsleeves
and secrets on the other side of darkened doorways.

Broken pyrex from Sunday dinner
curried shrimp and peas and shards of glass
swept up and put in the garbage
like it never happened.

I’m from speakeasies, poker games, and polka dancing.
Putting up pears in the fall and making cabbage rolls all winter long.
Where I’m from you better find something to do or I’ll find something for you.

I’m from woods thick with fallen leaves and dusty sunlight,
woodsmoke and bearded men with deer guns and beer cans
who might shoot your dog if she’s still outside at dusk.

I’m from the crazy quilt you find in the trunk of the attic;
bright and chaotic.
Dead relatives’ pajamas and overalls,
flannel and corduroy
stitched together with yarn.

Where I’m from, we’re all about second chances
because most of us didn’t know we were up the first time around.
Where I’m from ghosts walk among us
real as the stories we tell ourselves before going to sleep.

Where I’m from we’re trying to find peace,
in the corners we have retreated to.
Though no one is speaking
and most of us are dead.

Hunger, Need, and Desire showed up at my door

Wild and desperate eyes
I would not let her in
Over and over I found her under my bed
creeping down the stairs to my basement
I locked my door against her and shut the blinds
she took the door off the hinges
The forest vines followed her to my table
I shrugged and began making chicken and rice
A pigeon made a nest in the coals of my fire and dreamt

People showed up carrying bowls
Walls became the inside of a hollow tree
Root ceiling, earthen floor
Stone in the soup
The pot stays full

A child filled their bowl 
singing the prophecies of their generation
as they left my kitchen, 
I felt left behind,
not sure of my part

I followed to witness 
the creators of our universe walking in procession
dry earthen paths lined by trees 
raising hands to the forever sky
joyful dust rising among 
dancing, celebrating, stomping feet

Robes of gauzy ochre fabric loose over limbs
Wooden staff in human hand
the face of the night bird looking back at me
I have always loved a parade

“Look” said my young guide and pointed out
two mothers, a family, of brown skin and woven black hair 
each carrying one of their children high in their arms

This child is called life, they are the creators’ allowance
This one is death; they are the creators’ constant
Both of their children are gifts

Don’t call it a nervous breakdown

Don’t call it a nervous breakdown.

Call it an unsettling, an unwinding from a tightly coiled shape. 

A springing-open seed pod of the 

touch-me-not, jewelweed, goldfish-flower. 

Rename the flowers, it’s been done before.  

Coils of slick green, tiny grains of brown seeds 

on a trajectory toward the sky and freedom and back to earth.

Call it a no-longer-enduring what has been forced, 

coerced by the known and unknown forces 

inside us, around us, woven through us.

In collusion with our mother’s grief and our father’s rage.

In cahoots with our mother’s most private madness 

and our father’s unsurrendered tears.

Call it a reckoning, a shapeshifting, a transformation.

Return to the shining articulated mahogany pupal case.

Burrow back under the ground and wait.

Call it a rite of passage in a world without rites. 

In a world where the incinerator at the funerary home 

only gets lit at times when no families 

are scheduled to visit their dead. 

When our bodies ache and shake and burn and dissolve,

put down what we are carrying as gently as we can.

Sit down, fall asleep, tremble, wail. 

We are all that we have 

and sometimes it’s ghosts.

Call it the chewy translucent web left behind by the snake. 

Each scale, each eye, inside-out gaping mouth. 

She’s already through the grass and down the hole 

feeling the earth against her new skin.