dVerse Poetics

Today at dVerse Poetics, Mary has given us the wonderful prompt to write about “where we are from”. Not the geographical where, but the poetic, spiritual, life where. It is a wonderful prompt. I have written a poem longer than normal but the words just flowed. I dedicate this with love to my amazing family, so much a part of where I am from.

family pics2

I am from Denmark, Ireland, England Germany
I am from Celia and Luther, Josie and George, Celia and Robert
I am from family I’ll never know who landed
on the North Carolina coast three hundred years ago

Sleeping on a pallet on the sleeping porch on a hot southern night
scented by magnolia gardenia roses newly mown lawn
ceiling fans operated by long cords pulled down to the floor
going whump whump whump slow and lazy then faster as the cords
move closer to the ceiling.

I am from a family of eccentrics, strong women
tender hearted men, the builder of the house
who made damn sure the front room was the largest and
filled floor to ceiling with books bought or rescued
and all dusted and read with love and respect.

I am from a childhood of watching my grandmother
make biscuits with no recipe, watching my father
fry chicken, watching my mother make banana pud’n.
Of peach cobblers and homemade vanilla ice cream,
bowls of potato salad and devilled eggs on an ancient
fragile egg plate decorated with a drift of paprika.
Family reunions, picnics, fish fries, church dinners.

I am from Christmases with huge trees, colored lights
a mountain of packages a table loaded with food
people excited when that special gift they bought is
opened and exclaimed over or laughing in glee
when they are the one to open that gift.
I am from Christmases of erector sets and microscopes
and a beautiful yellow crinoline with pink ribbon rosebuds.

I am from summers with endless gardens of red sassy
tomatoes, sweet corn, silky butterbeans and crisp
snap beans- sitting on the backporch rocking
rocking and helping to snap snap beans and shell
butterbeans and shuck and silk corn.
And bowls and platters of those vegetables
planted and picked by us.

I am from playtimes with the family cats and dogs
and dressing them in doll clothes, loading them
into my red wagon and taking them around the neighborhood
to visit Miss Goldie, Mrs. Keranakis, Mr. Bujold
and Jamie Pollard who taught me how to write haiku
He thought being six years old was the perfect age
for me to learn.

I am from evenings of my family sitting around
and reading aloud poems from the Brownings, Yeats,
Keats, Wordsworth, Frost and Shakespeare’s sonnets.

I am from my own world of T.S. Eliot, Ginsberg, Snyder,
Kerouac, Simon and Garfunkel, Lennon and McCartney.
I am from my own world of secretly writing poetry
and feeling too odd – too odd even for my Southern
Style Addams Family family.
Keeping the fire inside secret. Hiding my notebooks
full of words written in Peacock Blue.
Sneaking out to poetry readings of Duke students
and then standing and reading mine
and feeling….not so very odd.
From bargaining with my mother:
I’ll do the cotillion if I get the next
two summers free.
Of being escorted by my sweet redhaired
cousin who committed suicide the next
summer because his father couldn’t abide
having a queer for a son.
Summers of love, moon landings, Woodstock.
I am from tears, forgiveness, pride, love,
Loss and gain, war and peace.
I am from being told to just be me.
And being loved when I was.

copyright kanzensakura

copyright kanzensakura

61 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rose Red
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 20:22:52

    I love the pictures you included, what a great tribute and respectful poem for your family. They read poetry aloud! Wow, lovely.I also love the part where you didn’t feel odd anymore when you were among those like yourself


  2. Let's CUT the Crap!
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 20:28:54

    This is a.w.e.SOME. You are A.W.E.some. Wow. I love this to pieces, Kanzen. Stupendous pictures you’ve painted. I see this like a movie reel again. ❤ ❤ ❤


  3. johnallenrichter
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 20:52:02

    You apparently are beautiful. Because this poem just exudes that. All these words boil down to two things in my eyes: family and love. And that is everything worth anything. I feel so sorry for you about your cousin… But honestly I feel so incredibly sad for his father. That level of guilt, or whatever it could be called, is not even in my ability to grasp… Entirely, entirely lovely and devastatingly emotional writing…


  4. Mary
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 20:59:14

    Ah, that is a wonderful ‘place’ to be from! Your poem is rich with details from your ancestors’ arrival, to the strong men and women who came before you, to your childhood adventures. I smiled at your red wagon, as I had one too & remember pulling my childhood dog in it, though he would have preferred to walk. I had more baked chicken than fried, more rhubarb torte than peach cobbler…but yes, the erector set (do they even make them any more?)! You definitely were fortunate with a family who sat around reading poetry together. The part about your cousin made me sad, very sad. If only his family had been more understanding, I wonder if things would have changed…. I liked your ending and being loved just for you, as who could ask for more!


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 28, 2015 @ 21:19:52

      I still have that erector set – no pieces missing! We were pure Southern. We had a strawberry patch but not rhubarb. A family from Up North moved in next door and grew rhubarb. They traded rhubarb for snap beans! But that was when I had left and entered university. I loved all our family animals – at one point, it was 3 dogs and 4 cats in the wagon with our German Shepard walking behind and keeping order.


      • Mary
        Apr 29, 2015 @ 17:35:59

        Oh, I wish I had MY old erector set. Lucky you to have 3 dogs and 4 cats. As a child I did have a dog. We got a cat from a farmer once, but had to take it back because I was very allergic to it. (I still am VERY allergic to cats.)


  5. Gabriella
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 21:18:45

    I enjoyed all the details about you and your family. And yes here is another poem that mentions a rich variety food and where memories are linked to specific dishes, not just food. I like the strong women since there were quite a few in my family too and I owe them a lot, the mention of Simon and Garfunkel to whom I listened growing up. But the gift of being allowed to be who you were meant to be is probably the greatest you received.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 28, 2015 @ 21:22:53

      I agree. and after the tragedy of my cousin, it was even more important. We all love our food memories – so many smiles from those. At one point in our home, it was 6 women and two men, who just tried to stay out of the way! And I had the worst crush on a Duke student who looked like Garfunkel. 🙂


  6. Glenn Buttkus
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 22:51:52

    Wow, an epic set of sense memories; all this reading about food is making me hungry. It’s like Harper Lee meets Julia Child, like Norman Rockwell had lunch with Truman Capote, like Tennessee Williams is drinking beer & having finger sandwiches with Anthony Bourdain; just loved it; thanks.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 28, 2015 @ 23:12:26

      And don’t forget Zelda Fitzgerald sittin’ on the porch drinking coca cola spiked coffee with Flannery O’Connor. Glad you liked this. Wish I could send you some chicken and biscuits!


  7. katiemiafrederick
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 22:58:02

    Haha.. i am from the same places replace Denmark with France and Spain and
    interestingly enough this replaces my assumption that you are Japanese my friend..
    When i picture you.. of course i picture the Samurai..:)


  8. Sherry Marr
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 00:33:06

    I LOVE the old photos in the frames!!!!!! A story behind each face. And oh my goodness! your poem! PLEASE, I beg of you, write your memoir. Your cousin who committed suicide. So sad, back then it was even harder to be gay than it is now. My best friend in high school suffered the torments of the damned, he lived to be in his 40’s but then committed suicide. A sad life. And he was so brilliant. Loved every line and story in this poem. Brilliant,.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 10:24:03

      Thank you. I think when we write our poems, we are writing our history. It is just done in a different way. So many of my gay friends of a certain age had hard times. Some were able to survive and be happy, others not. It grieves me when society bullies those who are different.


  9. Bryan Ens
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 00:55:43

    Like the progression of feeling out of place for writing poetry and then moving towards acceptance.


  10. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 01:00:02

    What a wonderful poem Toni, I love how you weaved the home, the house and family into all this, the reading of poetry aloud, and then in all that warmth enter that dark image of your cousin committing suicide. Wonderful poem.


  11. MarinaSofia
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 01:36:33

    That does sound like a wonderful childhood, family, upbringing and neighbourhood, though with hints of darker things (that poor cousin!) I envy the mix of cultures and backgrounds within the same family in America. In my family we are generations of generations of peasants and shepherds of the same ethnic group, even the same village… a bit dull…


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 10:13:33

      In the smaller units of our life, we separated out into “same” groups. In my school, we were all of pretty much the same background, white; where my father worked – the same; at church – the same. At home, in spite of the different ancestry, we were all just us. We told and retold family stories, but it was long ago, we had totally merged with others in the American melting pot. We eere Southerners, we were Americans. Boring. I think most of us are like that until someone else peeks in and says, how interesting. We never thought of ourselves as different. We were part of the neighborhood. Being gay was harder then but he couldn’t keep that secret from close family. We loved him and his father loved him, but it frightened him and repulsed him to see that his son was not “ordinary/normal”. Soon after my cousin’s death, his father died. I think from guilt and grief.


  12. Prajakta
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 01:56:54

    Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful… It isn’t just the place but generations of memories and traditions.


  13. Suzanne
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 03:13:07

    What a delicious hymn to family and then the terrible tale of your gay cousin at the end! What a feat and a triumph this poem is.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 10:20:00

      Thank you so very much. And that is life and family – the bitter and the sweet.


      • Suzanne
        Apr 30, 2015 @ 04:36:40

        Yes, but the story of what happened to your cousin is just terrible. I have a gay son. I guess that makes it all the more real to me. Prejudice is a terrible thing.


        • kanzensakura
          Apr 30, 2015 @ 11:10:00

          Yes it is. His father was a good man but was from another part of the country and had rather Puritan values. Many people do, sadly. We loved him because he was a sweet and inteligent, creative lad. It broke all of our hearts. His father died soon afterwards and his mother was never the same. All my life I have tried to help against this prejudice. I have many gay and Lesbian friends, many are part of our extended family. I hope your son has good friends as well as family to support him.


  14. L Weaves Words
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 06:14:03

    So much here I never knew myself yet written so well I’m drawn in and can’t help relate… and then you write “I am from my own world of secretly writing poetry / and feeling too odd” and that was me too… and then you write “I am from tears, forgiveness, pride, love, / Loss and gain, war and peace” which feels to me we are all from there…
    Loved it. Thank you 🙂


  15. billgncs
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 09:35:31

    just to be you – the best thing possible. Very nice 🙂


  16. Myrna Rosa
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 09:38:35

    This was such a delightful read. Made me want to be part of your family! I love how you weave this from ancestry to family to yourself. Beautifully done. And how wonderful to be encouraged to be YOU.


  17. Sumana Roy
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 12:09:42

    “I am from evenings of my family sitting around / and reading aloud poems” a dream life many of us had in our younger days…i resonate with the lines that become greatly solemn towards the end …


  18. tamekamullins
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 12:21:41

    I would have loved to have been your friend. Delicious food and so many interesting things to witness and do. You served it up like a sumptuous meal and made it seem so enticing!


  19. claudia
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 12:45:21

    haha… so you dressed the cat and dog in dolls clothes? smiles… i wanna see a pic! ha
    lovely to be able to sleep outside on hot summer nights – the scent of magnolia – hmmm – always love when there’s scent in a poem – and ugh… your cousin’s suicide hit hard… so very sad


  20. zongrik
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 14:02:29

    i like how you list your background, and then you say sleeping on a pallet, but you are a pallet of colors of nationalities.

    My Brain is a Cheap Gadget That Spins


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 23:20:45

      Yes indeed, we have a variety in my family. But pallet, in regard to sleeping, is a bed made up on the floor as opposed to pallette which holds a painter’s paints. But you are right, my family is a “colorful” crew!

      Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®|PRO


  21. vbholmes
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 14:35:37

    You are lucky to be from such a loving, welcoming family (and eccentric to boot!) which gave you the freedom, and exposure, to grow into the person you’ve become. A lovely tribute to them.


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 16:50:42

      This is why my family always reminds me of the Addams Family – people and especially family, were always accepted and loved just as they were and they were encouraged to be themselves.


  22. Desmond, Anthony (@iamEPanthony)
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 18:13:39

    amazing is an understatement when it comes to this poem… how awesome is it to come from a family eccentrics?? 🙂 🙂 and ugh, I wish my family was into poetry enough to sit around and read it aloud. I’m surprised you still kept your poetry writing a secret!


    • kanzensakura
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 18:26:03

      I was so afraid it wasn’t any good. That they would be interested just because they loved me and not because of what it was. And then, they were really into the classic poetry and I felt because mine was modern, they wouldn’t understand. The old teenage Wasteland/alienation thing. It was anti-war and questioned a lot of authority – they were staunch supporters of the war and old values. It wasn’t until I went to university that I realized how proud they would have been of me taking a different stand. After that, they always asked what I had written and if I’d read it. They were so proud.


  23. mishunderstood
    Apr 30, 2015 @ 01:51:55

    I feel the gratitude in your poem and a deep appreciation for family. Lovely piece. 🙂


  24. wolfsrosebud
    Apr 30, 2015 @ 08:54:29

    wonderful family history… you brought it all alive to us


  25. Clowie
    Apr 30, 2015 @ 11:36:14

    That’s no haiku! 🙂
    I love it and the images you evoke of different times.


  26. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.
    May 02, 2015 @ 07:25:25

    You have outdone yourself on this one, my friend. Beautifully expressed. Every detail in proper sequencing.


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