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I am from Sunday mornings as a child
riding hours into minutes at a gallop
before returning to a weekly treat
of hot baked beans in a bowl
I am from macaroni cheese and gado gado,
though I have no holiday snaps
and only very little blood (Indonesian)
from one of their countries of origin
I am from thyme fragranced mountains
and gentle seas that called to me ‘come, swim’
before I’d even taken my first steps.
I am from good, from people who love and share with ease,
who care for me even when I feel ‘uncareable for’
and I know this because the good has been well spiced
with mistakes and pain, which are sometimes too hot
for me to take in, and yet as I breathe I can see
the integrity of the original ingredients
I am from people who sing (loudly) and dance (outrageously)
and laugh as if the very meaning of life
hungers for those movements and that sound
without which whatever gives life life will cease,
or at the very least, go to sleep for a very long time
I am from silence, immersing myself in her comfort
yielding myself to her wisdom,
searching the pathways she reveals in all directions
for that peace, that joy, that truth
which I sometimes want to give up on,
but which never seems to be willing
to give up on me
I am from creative fearlessness
from invention, imagination, colour and curiosity
the land of ‘anything’s possible’
to which I regularly return with the same question,
‘What, really? Anything?’
I am from the strength that comes
from knowing I’m never alone
and yet that which accompanies me
all places at all times
needs no name
it just taps me on the shoulder when I need redirecting
and hugs me safe in invisible arms
when there is no comfort to be found in this world
I am from fiery passion, at times clothed in anger,
which sticks capitalised labels shouting
‘THIS IS WRONG!’ on inequality and unkindness
in all their insidious forms
until tears make the labels peel off
and I realise how little I truly understood
what I was so willing to name
I am from mystery and timelessness
for though my body will return to the earth
on some unknown, unremarkable day in the future,
that which is remarkable about the being I am
can never leave, for it never arrived
but simply was – always.

I wrote this in response to a chapter in a book I’m re-reading at the moment, ‘Writing to Change the World’ by Mary Pipher. Early in the chapter called ‘Know Thyself’ she writes:

“When I researched The Middle of Everywhere, I asked refugees to write ‘I Am From’ – type poems as they struggled to find themselves in a new country and language. They followed a formula with each line beginning with ‘I am from.’ Writing this kind of poem is a way to experiment with identity issues. The poem must include references to food, places, and religion. You might want to give it a try.’

And so I extend her invitation to you. Where are you from?