Winner of the 2021 Empower Her* Voice Creative Writing Contest. Judge Cheryl Buchanan commented:
“From its captivating first line, People are rarely satisfied with Massachusetts, which leads the reader all over the globe and back, this poem is a reclamation and a ride through our geography, our history, and our collective quest to identify, categorize, and size up one another based on appearance, and perceptions of class, education, accent, and reflections of our selves. Effectively, the speaker traces heritage and lineage (alternating stories and suspicions) through landscapes and snapshots with vivid and visceral detail.”
Where Are You Really From?
People are never satisfied with Massachusetts, rarely with Oregon or Seattle. Where are you really from? Barbed wire and barren earth, a family huddled in a horse stall on a fairground in the name of Harmony. Rice fields and red envelopes. Where are you really from? Mikan orchards, a fishing village. A picture bride rising over the Pacific horizon against the path of the sun—but we are not done sifting through soggy, half-frozen clumps of riverbank sand for gold buried underneath the Alaskan permafrost, not done stalking rabbits with a shotgun to drag back to a dirt-floor house in a podunk Wyoming town. Where are you really from? –I’m Polish, I say, and people laugh as if my grandmother’s grandmother did not scrub the floors of a rich man who paid her passage from a place no one knows how to name— Austria-Hungary, Poland, or Ukraine. Pay no attention to the East Berliners behind the iron curtain, to the sea captain’s apprentice who jumped ship, stranding everything he owned in Australia. Where are you really from? How far are you willing to dig? Our hole passed China long ago.