Who I am, Where I’m from

May 31, 2010:

I am from cold well-water on a one hundred degree day.

From Cudahy meat packing plant and warm bologna.

I am from the sound of train whistles (long, mournful cries in the night),

and tornado drill sirens at noon.

I am from sunflowers and the maple tree in the back yard

covered in the fragile shells of cicadas

whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from Christmas tamales, New Year’s menudo, turkey on Thanksgiving.

From two Francisco’s.

I am nearsightedness, and book-wormishness.

Long and lean (the Castro side). the observer. the tearful.

I’m from the cucuy and Thearosa’s bridge, and

If-you-hit-your-mother-your-hand-will-stick-out-of-your-grave.

I’m from Juan Diego, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Pope John Paul II, and

the ten commandments I memorized to get a gold star.

I’m from Wichita, Kansas. The north side.

Mexican bread and sweet, cinnamon hot chocolate.

From the only grandmother I ever knew, Dominga, with whom I never had a conversation,

because she spoke only Spanish, and I

only English.

From the ghost of John-John who died in Vietnam,

Aunt Cecilia’s basement, and cousins,

cousins, and more cousins.

I am from my father’s many photo albums, their pages sticky and yellowed with age,

catalogued slides and home movies carefully tucked into handmade cedar boxes,

their dates chronologically written in pencil on the lids.

Boxes filled with people and places that make me who I am

Where I’m from.

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