From a writing exercise:


I am from the river bottoms and flooded flatlands, sun-dried dusty gravel roads and melted tar shingle-scrap parking lots of bar-be-que joints and clandestine sips of Falstaff from the trash can.

I am from the house off the ground, with huge crawdads in the ditches out front, their mounds all over the yard, nandinas on every corner, with a sprig of forsythia flashing here and there, perhaps an iris or two as well. I am from inside a solid fence of steel welded by my father.  I am from a pink Maytag with a small scratch, which made it a second, and hence cheaper to buy.

I am from my Aunt Rachel’s hydrangeas, trailing vines of wisteria and kudzu and the piney woods with the wind whistling through.  I am from the cinders of the lumber mill swept off the front porch every morning. I am from the porch swing and the sleeping porch.

I am from the stoics and hardheads, the bakers and the lumbermen, the railroad hostlers and Dorothy and Frisky and Leona and Adelaide and George and the preachers.  I am from the retarded and the impaired.

I am from the organizers of closets and workbenches and sweepers of clutter.  I am from the brothers and sisters of nearsightedness, the ones who in earlier times were tapestry makers, weavers and finework artists.

From the ones who were taught “America never starts a war,” and “America never loses a war.”  And told the enemy was on the way with terrible weapons.

I am from the hell-raising backwoods, bible thumping, hardshell Baptists, the flaming speakers of tongues unknown, the holy rollers and the stiff upper lipped evangelical Teutonics.  I am from the cauldron of fiery hell and damnation and the cool, soothing whiskey of forgiveness and peace.  I am from the gilt-edged, onion-skin pages of old floppy bibles.  I am from the family photo, all dressed up, squinting into the Easter morning sun, barely able to keep my eyes open. I am from an upright grand piano, thumping out honky-tonk gospel.

I’m from the Pink Tomato Capital of the World, although they don’t taste like they used to, since they are not for locals anymore. I am from 1951, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1959 and 1964 Chevrolets and from 10-2-4.

From the hard scrubbed body of the dead uncle, prepared by his own kin, and from the Army’s biological weapons program.  I am from anthrax and white phosphorous.  I am from the time of polio, the wading pools closed and families afraid.  I am from lightning in the sky, storms passing through, with a glass of homemade lemonade in my hand, sitting in the doorway watching the storm with mom and dad, the fine mist of the rain wafting in through the screen.