Saturday, November 21, 2009

I am from

Jaala weaving during Peace Corps Micronesia's swearing-in ceremony, 2003

Of Yesterday...

Sifting through my belongings as I move into the future, I have had the curious opportunity to revisit my past. Last night, as I dipped my hands into Peace Corps memories, I found this gem. Written on September 11, 2003, it was noted on the crumpled piece of paper that this poem occupied:

"Dedicated to Micro 70s: as we adapt to a new culture, do not forget where we came from."

I read this aloud to all of the trainees in Peace Corps Micronesia two years after the 9/11 tragedy and over a year and a half after I had moved away from the United States to become a Peace Corps volunteer. So without further adieu...

I am from

I am from...
a humble beginning and a complex past,
a deep green blanket of trees
where the rain pours non-stop
and umbrellas are a mosaic in the sky.

I am from...
skinned knees and freeze tag,
bike crashes and pickle ball;
Garbage Pail Kids and baseball with the boys,
wishing I was one of the boys
and struggling to emerge as a woman.

I am from...
late night dancing
with flowers pinned to lapels
and corsages on wrists;
fancy dresses and butterflies
lingering on and on
until that first kiss.

I am from...
millions of miles back and forth, back and forth,
frothy foam in my face,
swimming away from it all
tears filling my goggles
pain telling me I'm alive.

I am from...
The Sound of Music,
Chopin channeled through my mother into my heart,
jazz weeping from my fingertips,
rhythm and blues repeating every one's story,
Billy Holiday blaring on the record player;
her pain, ours in another time.

I am from...
a mixed family
a mixed-up family
a strong family
a strongly opinionated family
my family.

I am from...
decades of strong women,
rice and beans, sopapillas,
salsa dancing, hair braiding,
curls and koolaid.

I am from...
Lakota, Illahee, Sacajawea
Snohomish, Puyallup, Issaquah
and all of the other natives that time forgot.

I am from...
Democratic, capitalistic
corporate, religious, political
a mess of meditations, a maze of signs
and symbols being held in protest;
a beautiful traffic jam of ideas.

I am from...
nervousness and anticipation,
opportunity and experience;
a new world.

I am from...
a solitary dream
that turned out to be more

I am from America.

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At 8:13 AM , Blogger Cara Deane said...

You may not remember this, but the 'I Am From' poem was an exercise that my dad used on students... and then I asked all of my friends to do one. I dont remember reading yours though, so this was fun. :)

At 2:00 PM , Blogger Haley Ballast said...

WOW... beautiful. amazing. thank you.

At 1:41 PM , Blogger docrona said...

that's absolutely beautiful, jaala

thanks for the warm welcome'home' today.
rona :)

At 8:56 PM , Blogger Luana Joslin-Lester said...

Dear Jaala,
I am late here as usual and reading your blog and poem. I remember reading this long ago, and it still brings tears to my eyes. You are a beautiful woman and a wonderful daughter I am so proud of you. Love, Mom

At 4:12 AM , Blogger Valerie Perez said...

Nice. Thanks for sharing


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