Where I’m From

Where I’m From


I’m from the Owens clan, grandmother
on mama’s side one of eleven, the eight women
like growing up with extra mothers,
thanks to them, part of my childhood one continuous,
proud-to-be Black, loving hug. Father,
a post-it note. Family the center
I can’t be without.

I’m from what used-to-be the ghetto, a place
of 5-row single-floor apartments, where we didn’t lock
our doors. The smells: pressed and curled hair, sweet cornbread,
chitlins, peach cobbler, greens, and blackeyed peas mixed
with the vegetables in the garden in the big yard, what wind
brought to my nose when it moved through the leaves
of our one large tree.

I’m from a time when a segregated Cleveland meant Black folks
owned our neighborhoods from E. 55 th and up, the street
an uncrossed white line in the land, the grocery stores, beauty
and barber shops, churches, and doctors and dentists’ offices
alive with everything we couldn’t get anywhere else.

I’m from water. My soul a river moving from the Nile to the Atlantic,
to Lake Erie, the flow at the E. 55 th street pier a place I breathe easier,
feel my ancestors, used to walk and talk with my late daughter.

Erie’s voice transcribed on a rusty metal break wall Help me I’m Dying,
Reminding me of the importance of taking care of this blessing,
that like people, our water can die too.