WHERE I’M FROM, Marianne McNamara

Where I’m From
by Marianne McNamara

I am from the land of sky-blue-waters,
the only daughter in a family of sons,
the one who never quite fit in.
I am the descendant of a German grandmother
I never knew and a Polish grandma I adored.
I am from a sprawled-out ranch house on a lake,
a crystal chandelier and pocket doors.
I am from a simple country church surrounded
by a patchwork of pastures and cornfields,
the unbeliever with the Catholic upbringing
who sang hymns on Sunday morning and ate
doughnuts in the church basement after Mass.

I’m from black and white television,
Little House on the Prairie books,
barefoot walks down dusty country roads,
chocolate chip cookies in the red kitchen after school.
I’m from Sarah Bernhardt peonies at the back door,
two blue canoes, a rowboat, a dog named Sam,
and the pink bedroom with gauzy organdy curtains.
I am from Dad listening to the ball game
on the radio at the end of a busy day,
Mother darning socks in the chair next to him,
her iced tea glass dripping condensation,
father loving mother all his life long.

Marianne’s process notes:
Kentucky author George Ella Lyon wrote the richly inspiring poem “Where I’m From,” in 1993. Since then, it’s been used by teachers as a template in writing classes and at family reunions. It makes a wonderful exercise in exploration. It speaks to the power of roots and the power of poetry. I used it here to guide my poem.

Marianne McNamara lives in St. Paul where she weaves together life as a writer of poetry, a food blogger and chef de cuisine, a shutterbug and grandmother to the amazing Nora and Annie. She began writing after she burned out as a school volunteer. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of anthologies, sidewalks and one magazine.

Marianne blogs at *elle écrit*.


4 thoughts on “WHERE I’M FROM, Marianne McNamara

  1. I’m not familiar with George Ella Lyon or his “Where I’m From” though I plan to check it out. I think your poem is so effective modeled this way and I find we have a few things in common. I absolutely love the last line and think that is the icing on the cake. Lovely work and I’m glad for the link to your other work.

    • Thanks for your kind words. George Ella Lyon is a she. I’d love to know the story behind her name! I was very lucky to grow up where I did, with parents who were devoted to each other.

  2. I’m not familiar with George Ella Lyon either, but from what I can tell his poem gave yours a strong backbone to follow. It is fascinating, when we tease out “where we’re from” and what that means. The sensory — and other — details add much.


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