NaPoWriMo 2019: Day 11

Today’s prompt: “write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually?” (

A Brief Accounting of Who I’ve Been, Part 1

I’m five years old: When I grow up, I want to live in a library!
Our house is filled with books, still we make the trek to the library just about every day.
We’re a family or avid readers, lovers of learning.

I can’t imagine being happy living anywhere I’m not surrounded by books.

I’m in third grade: When I grow up, I want to be a cosmologist!
Yes, I know the word “cosmologist” in third grade.
I soak up astronomy and my dad’s science fiction novels.
My days are spent in school or running around, biking all over town.
My nights are spent thinking Big Thoughts:
About the Universe, the Big Bang, God, the nature of time.

I’m in fifth grade: I read a quote from Terence—
“I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.”
This becomes a mission: to know as much as I can about who we are, how and why.
I discover a deep fascination with the breadth and potential of human nature.

I want to be a writer, a storyteller, an explorer of human being.

I’m in seventh grade: I discover music. Heavy metal. Hard rock. Risque and dangerous and laughable.
Loud, angry, rebellious, anarchic music. But me? I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.
I relish the contrast between who I am and the new soundtrack of my life.
I laugh often. I learn to swear with abandon and relish.

Thus begins my everlasting love of language.

I’m in ninth grade: I’m bored, so I start doing theater because I don’t have any better ideas.
I learn to sing along with my sister’s musical soundtracks.
“You’ve got a nice voice,” people tell me.
“You should try out for the summer show!” they insist.
I finally do it just to get them to stop bothering me.
I learn to dance, to act, to perform.

I love it.

I’m in high school: Theater and music are my life.
Acting and dancing and singing and mosh pits and screaming along with the radio.

I love it.

What else? These are the highlights, the touch points, the core of me.
But there’s more, and the more matters, too.

Grade school: I’m a nerd. I’m a swimmer. I stare straight at the sun without blinking.
I love our dog but I don’t need to snuggle with her all that much.
I love my family but I spend most of my time alone in my room and I like it that way.
I’m socially awkward, physically awkward, and I’m terrified of phones.
I’m lonely and there’s something wrong with me and I cry far too often when no one can see.

Middle school: I’m a nerd who wears offensive t-shirts and thinks it’s funny.
I’m an excellent student. I’m tall. I discover pornography.
I grab huge piles of napkins in the lunch line at school to drive the lunch ladies nuts
But I think really they like me and think it’s amusing.
I get less socially awkward. I’m still terrified of phones.

High school: I’m a nerd but with more panache.
I wear obnoxious Cosby sweaters and silly, garish socks.
I get my first taste of real self-confidence. I’m cocky.
I don’t tap dance, I’m a hoofer. I’m a lyric tenor with a mezzo-soprano falsetto.
I thrill to how my voice sounds singing in the frigid winter air.
I’m an excellent student. I’m not unusually tall. I’m an athlete.
I learn to work with my hands. I love our new dog and we play together.
I only need four or five hours of sleep a night.
I’m terrified of phones and moths and driving.

But this is all just me. What about everyone else?
All the humans around me who aren’t alien to me?
I must be more than just myself. I’m a nexus of connections.

Grade school: Family. A few friends. Neighbors.
Bikes. The pool. Trick-or-treating. Christmas. Snow forts and snowball fights.
Bullies. Teasing. Not many friends.

Middle school: Family. Music brings me more friends. Outcasts, outsiders, excellent people.
My best friend and I meet because we’re the tallest people in our class. My first girlfriend.
Playing hooky. Learning how to lie to my parents. Dusky evenings running riot around town.
Braving the arctic winter outdoors wearing only a t-shirt and shorts because the cold doesn’t bother me.

High school: Family. Theater kids. Grunge clubs. Mosh pits. Late night diners.
The freedom of friends who have cars. The same friends I’ve had since grade school.
New friends from theater and the music scene. More girlfriends. Haunted houses.
‘Zines and pedantic, self-conscious essays and ponderous poetry and protest and social justice righteous indignation.
Poets and artists and dancers and athletes and band geeks and math nerds and science dorks and speech team kids.
Excellent people.

I learn to be more than myself.

But what else? More. Always, there’s more.
I was a librarian, a scientist, a metal-head,
A triple threat, grunge, punk.
I’m a nerd and an actor and a friend
and a son and a brother and a nephew.
A swimmer and an athlete,
And a pathetic klutz.
Kind and difficult,
Cocky and humble,
Giving and selfish,
Forgiving and far too hard on myself,
Happy and angry,
Unsettled and content,

Where do you stop when searching for your origins?
The devil’s in the details and god is in the patterns.

The threads which weave to create the shape and content of who we are
Are myriad, un-tease-apartable, connected to everyone around us.

Many of the threads which make up me aren’t even mine to start with.
They come from others: freely given, taken, borrowed.
As I have freely given and been taken from.

We are ourselves.
We are others.
We are all and we are human.

Our stories are each our own.
Our stories are common and shared.

We are success and failure and constant striving.

We are cacophony and we are silence.
We are murmur and speech and song.
We are stillness and dance,
Running, walking, stumbling, falling,

2 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo 2019: Day 11

    1. I’m not actually sure where that line came from. It might be something I heard once that’s been sitting in my unconscious for years. Or it might be something I made up. I honestly can’t tell. I’m glad you like it!


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