I’m giving my seniors an assignment to write about their own culture or cultures in the hopes of having a rich discussion about what culture is and how we create, understand, change, or encounter culture. I’m going to give them some models of some personal writing in different forms, but I wanted to write a poem myself to share with them. I want to invite them to locate their ideas of their own culture not in abstractions but in concrete images–specific snapshots from their lives. In this way, when we workshop the writing, I hope to get them to a more specific understanding of how culture works and applies to all of us, not just to those out there who come from cultures that are different from our own.I don’t want my poem to be too polished, and I want my students to know that they won’t be able to get everything in there, but I want it to be personal, so here it is. I hope you enjoy reading it!
I am from green quilted fields, and coiling roads, and ashen skies.
I am a patchwork of the quiet moments that reared me,
where I watched the cows amble home
and the sun dip behind the heavy hills.
I am that schoolhouse in Ireland, decaying yet dignified still,
where my childhood footsteps first registered,
and still reverberate—in rural rememberings—
I am story after story after story.
I am fresh bare feet on cold, wet grass, laughing my way over hurdles
as the farmers look on, smoking their cigarettes, stomping their wellied feet.
I am socks on a path and spikes on tracks
on hot afternoons in a Florida daze,
saving my spirit with Florida rains.
I am many pairs of runners, worn and replaced.
I am rock walls, littered city streets, scattered suburban parks:
I am step after step after step.
I am streetcar adventures in New Orleans,
boiled crawfish and potatoes,
po’boys and oysters and chowder.
I am lazy laundromat and library days
I am scholar, sinner, saint—
A lonely girl without a place.
I am a sunflower, strong but often without grace:
I am dance after dance after dance.
I am mother, sister, daughter, partner, teacher, friend
I am seven siblings saying the rosary
and one perfect child holding my hand.
I am love,
sundry and soiled;
I am words and writing and work.
I am chore and choir and cheer:
I am Claire after Claire after Claire.