Where I Am From: Take 1
We are from chicken and dumplings, German cooking, frog legs, collard greens, turnips
We are from the barn where the cows lived, from ham, meat and potatoes
We are from raising our own food
We are from fried chicken, chitlins, hot biscuits, chocolate fudge, coconut cake
Strudel, gingerbread, buttermilk, cheesecake, banana pudding, Spanish rice
Fried fish, muttle fish, corn, string beans
We are from blues, jazz, gospel
We are from sleeping songs, lullabies
We are from hearing: water from a spring, cars, airplanes, children playing
Drag racing, polka dancing, classical music—German music
We are from drinking songs
Once my mother put me on the table with a drink of coffee and some milk and some bread and butter, while she worked
We are from Country Western music, the sound of angry parents
From Elvis Presley: Ain't nothin’ but a hound dog!
We are from gospel in church and gospel at home
I took piano lessons—played God Bless America
We are from harmonica, guitar, banjo piano, singing in the choir
I heard Mahalia Jackson once
We are from music on 78s, 33s, 45s
Saturday morning was cleaning morning—we could bebop around then
My son gave me Schubert to play on a compact disc
We are from Chicago; Atlanta, Georgia; Grand Forks; Missouri; Pennsylvania; Madison, Wisconsin; Berlin, Vienna
My father was arrested in Kristallnacht and Eichmann told him he would die anyway so he would not waste a bullet on him
We are from the family together, barbecue, and from lots of snow
We are from hog killing and butchering
We are from dancing, going to Marigolds to dance, roller gardens, ice skating on Sundays
We are from the ROTC dancing, from parties on a yacht, from a milk dairy farm
From car fumes and Mexican food…
We are from skating in Vienna, the smell of pine trees, lilac bushes
The smell of chicken farms, pig farms—my aunt always said about the pig farm: Smell the money!
We are from city smells, from the horses, from streets where restaurants give out Mexican food smells
We are from a time when women in the house wore aprons
My husband wears an apron when he eats to keep his shirts clean
My father went to school in the Ukraine, where the friend he studied with went on to win a Nobel prize
I was in Berlin from the beginning to the end of WWII
I am from picking cotton
Composed by the poets of Eastside Neighborhood Services' Friendship Center in a session led by Julie Landsman, May, 2017
Ode to the Owl
or The Morning Magician
O barred owl screeching in the night,
you make us feel like we
should take flight. O barred owl
screeching, you’re all right.
Get a better squeak, be a little less
noisy. O barred owl, what are the spots
on your back? Have you lost track?
You’re far from home.
O barred owl screeching
in the night, as you sing your song
of dark delight. Come more often,
will you please?
Your noise keeps us awake,
so we can’t sleep.
O barred owl screeching
in the night, what treats out there
bring you delight? What mice,
what moles, what other prey?
With your beak, we say a prayer.
Please bless us with your stay.
Composed by the poets of VOAMN's Southwest Senior Center in a session led by Rachel Moritz, April 27, 2017
The World We Draw
Poisonous insect that lives
On the bamboo leaf.
Green trees and mountains.
Red birds with tree,
A red sun
And a green sun,
Roots of the trees are strong.
If I had my own house it would look like this:
yellow and orange—Mai’s house,
The horse is my favorite animal,
The blue bird is from my imagination,
Portrait of Chong’s mother Xue,
Mother and daughter together,
The sun shines onto the earth,
I like to plant flowers,
I like birds,
Tiger is the enemy–keep away!
Escaping the war
crossing the Mekong River into Thailand,
Self-portrait with my heart.
Hmong elder poets describing their artwork in a session with Diane Jarvenpa at Park Elder Center's Hmong Adult Day Program, 1/17/17