Where I’m From: Seven Decades in Seven Scenes
An island poet from North Carolina recounts a life defined by books, music, and events far beyond her control.
I am island crabcakes and Coppertone,
I am am imaginary friends and get-well bouquets from Miss Fannie’s yard,
I am am Nanny’s butterbeans and Pappy’s chickens,
I am am following Aunt Mildred’s finger across the hymnal page:
I am am “Jesus Loves Me,” this I know.
I am Johnny Horton and Patsy Cline and Bill Monroe.
I am am The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Chronicles of Narnia.
I am am she-sells-seashells-by-the-seashore.
I am Hurricane Donna.
I am junior high in a hated house on the mainland,
I am am putrid pink princess phone and canopied bed,
I am am Siamese cat, collie dog and portable typewriter.
I am am singing Peter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez:
I am am “Blowing in the Wind” on the guitar I cannot tune.
I am John Kennedy and Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King,
I am am To Kill a Mockingbird and David Copperfield,
I am am high school newspaper and president of the Bible Club.
I am do-not-get-caught-smoking.
I am back home to the island and asthma gone,
I am am sailing and surfer boys and putting up shrimp,
I am am love-beads and patchouli oil and white rabbits.
I am am idolizing Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:
I am am “Find the Cost of Freedom” rips pain in my soul
I am on my knees in Ohio and in Vietnam and in Watts.
I am am Be Here Now, Howl, and “Burn Baby Burn.”
I am am coffeehouse and Mama’s house and my house. Our house.
I am colleges that cannot contain me.
I am my apartment’s yellow kitchen table in candlelight,
I am am Earth Mother and Merlin the Magic Cat’s mom,
I am am black coffee and I am with the band.
I am am wailing Janis, Jerry, Jimmy, John, Jackson, Jerry Jeff.
I am am “Before the Deluge” and “Margaritaville” and “Imagine.”
I am technical writer and Edgar Cayce and Shirley MacLaine.
I am am The Color Purple and The Prince of Tides.
I am am Tarot cards, crystal balls, and camping on the river.
I am all the lives I’ve ever lived.
I am far from the sea, my touchstone, and I am lost.
I am am grad school and frightened I’ll fail,
I am am ethnography and master’s thesis.
I am am learning Lisa Thiel and Enya and the Waterboys:
I am am “Ostara” and “The Whole of the Moon”
I am Starhawk and Lee Smith and Sue Monk Kidd
I am am The Spiral Dance and Oral History and The Secret Life of Bees.
I am am my yellow table stripped and varnished, no longer me.
I am historic house and magnolia trees and the river saves me.
I am my parents’ ranch house and lasagna gardening,
I am am between salt water creeks where I hear, but cannot see, the sea.
I am am Rosebud Reservation, Badlands and Black Hills.
I am am Traveling with Willie Nelson, Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Eagles
I am am “On the Road Again” and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
I am Joe Marshall and Jean Shinoda Bolen and Sue Bender.
I am am The Lakota Way and forever Crossing to Avalon.
I am am I-will-always-be-a-second-class-citizen-teaching-in-academia-with-no-Ph.D.
I am full moon circles, women’s mysteries, rituals, signs and omens.
I am Goddess and Glastonbury, Stonehenge, and Cornwall,
I am am when-it’s-time-it’s-time, running with Wolf and flying with Hawk.
I am am home to the sea again in a house not mine. Afraid.
I am am Praying for John Prine, Kate Wolf, and Rhiannon Giddens.
I am am “Angel from Montgomery,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Waterbound.”
I am Wendell Berry and Aldo Leopold, always Rachel Carson.
I am am A Sand County Almanac and Silent Spring.
I am am My neighbors kill coyotes the way they kill maritime forests.
I am sunrise over the roiling sea and oyster beds and Hurricane Florence.
Deb Bowen lives and writes on a North Carolina barrier island. She is the co-author of "A Good Friend for Bad Times: Helping Others Through Grief." She has a novel and several other works in progress.