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


Green bird,

           Rice pounder,


Poisonous insect that lives

       On the bamboo leaf.

Corn plants,

           Bamboo reed,

       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