Where I Come From

July 21, 2014  |  poetry

1.
mother of northern lights
magic beacons that dance across
the sky. me, four years old,
eight years old, nine ten eleven,
fourteen and bleary and in
the middle of some intense
dream-panic about my grown
future how will I ever
what would it mean
I don’t understand how
sheets pulled back, boots
thrust into my hands
before I can even
understand that I am now
awake, she says look
up. look at the sky

2.
mother of tidepools
she was the one who taught me
to overturn the flattest, widest
rocks to see what was underneath.
always a world, a tube worm
that makes a home grain by
grain of sand, a limpet
like a little hat, a barnacle,
a blenny. there are as many names
for sand hoppers as there are
hoppers themselves. starfish
like the deeper waters—sun stars,
count the legs, brittle stars,
delicate as their name. and
katy chitons, elusive like
the popular girl who never comes
to my birthday party, but
every once in a while if you
look hard enough, she’s looking
back.

3.
mother of temperate rainforest
mother of goat’s beard
mother of sitka spruce
mother of western hemlock
mother of nurse logs, nurturing seedlings
mother of douglas fir
mother of where christmas trees come from
mother of sensible rain boots and mud
mother of old growth
mother of conifers
mother of a canopy
mother of black bears
mother of glacial erratics
mother of muskeg
mother of karst
mother of the roadless expanse
mother of the tongass

4.
mother of fields of wildflowers
chocolate lily and fireweed
wild iris and lupine
dogwood and buttercup
bleeding heart and tiger lily
fiddlehead and wild chive
columbine and beach pea
cow parsnip and cotton grass
dandelion and forget me not
foxglove and parnassus
queen ann’s lace
fern leaf gold thread
shooting star
yarrow

5.
mother of hiding
attention brought too many
coat hangers. too much rage-filled skin
downslope river was barely comfort
when attention stretched icy hands
to find where you had tucked yourself.

it was better to be invisible

6.
mother of owl pellets
baked for hours in the oven
until they are so dry they fall
open to reveal bones of shrews
who once ran away from their
mothers in the middle of
the night with only the full
moon guide through the forest

7.
mother of music
of harmonies and guitar
every morning, NPR
from the alarm still playing
for the snake or the dishes
when she leaves the house
hands too small for guitar,
so she picked up the mandolin
in another version where she
was not so terrified of the energy
that comes from attention
she would have been a back-up singer,
on tour with the big boys,
caretaking and harmonizing
until coming back home
listening to pacific ocean
waves for hours, lapping
away at mountains

8.
mother of the first day of school
lunches and lunches
and lunches and lunches
long past when I was left
to fend for myself for
all the other meals. always
meeting my teachers, always
saying, I don’t care about
the grades, as long as you’re
doing your best. “best”
is often way more than
what I wanted to do, but
was always what I wished
I was doing.

9.
mother of bats
two. stored in her freezer
and they tour annually
to the classrooms of the
elementary schools, look
this is a bat’s wing, this
is how big its skull is.
don’t dig too deep in there
for the orange juice, she warns.
you don’t want to unwrap something
by accident. a creature too
hard to bury when the ground is
frozen, waiting for the spring
for a proper grave. but the bats
are special, because if
reincarnation is real (and
she thinks it is just as
possible as it is not possible),
she wants to come back as a
fruit bat, the only
vegetarian mammal who flies.

10.
mother of snakes
on the new york city subway,
she pinches her fingertip
like she has a hangnail,
but it’s a snake tooth,
embedded. edwina the snake
bit me, she says, and
pulls back the sticky
plastic case of her ipod,
carefully places the tooth,
and pulls the cover back
over it.

11.
mother of the flume
long and flat and as babies,
one of us was always losing
something over the side.
ravines and mudslides
when the winter runoff
started to thaw. only
two boards wide
when I was a kid, when
gym class assigned a
round-trip run, too bad
if you don’t make it back
before the lunch bell,
you’ll just be late.
twenty years ago they
added two more, and
railings. she still
goes up there every day,
with her camera and
her baseball hat,
running up the mountain.

12.
mother of pebbles
we could sit for hours
listening to the waves
coming in, the occasional
boat or car speeding by,
not even shifting from
that one spot, and still
our hands never ran out
of rocks to sift through.
smoothest baby mountains,
worried away by the sea.
everything crumbles.
she likes the egg-shapes,
I like the flat ones
that fit in my palm
my pocket, the perfect place
for my thumb when I need some
ground. she says it’s because
there is no earth in my
astrological chart. I think
I like to have something
to do with my hands. she’s
always wanted the perfect
quartz all-white egg shape,
just less than palm size,
with one black stripe.
she’s still looking.

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2 Comments


  1. beautiful, Daddy…

    I especially like the stanza about rocks.

    <3

  2. This is really beautiful. I especially love this part: “elusive like
    the popular girl who never comes
    to my birthday party, but
    every once in a while if you
    look hard enough, she’s looking
    back.”
    and the stanzas about trees & flowers. Made me think of my own mother.

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