This semester, creative writers at GCAA followed the imitation poem assignment more loosely, using Bob Hicok’s poem “A Primer” as loose inspiration for a poem about where they come from, or a city or a state or a place that has special meaning for them. Something to consider as you read… How do these poems echo “A Primer” and how do they echo each other?
Where I’m From
I am from the city.
Breathe of fresh gasoline
in the air. Grey clouds
fogging up the city bus windows.
Tow trucks, semi-trucks,
pick up trucks and 2 bucks
worth of gas per gallon on every corner,
like the women near the motels.
I am from reconstruction
and demolition destruction,
from buildings to family & friends.
I’m from the fires that attach themselves
to red, white, & blue along with the cigarettes
that litter the sidewalk.
I am from racism
and constant hate that shoots
from white mouths
and black guns.
I’m from the blind protectors
and insightful victims
I’m from fatherless sons
that produce more fatherless children.
I’m from the richest poor,
the browning parks,
the deaf ears,
the cold comfort,
and the silenced cries
at those who lead.
I’m from unpredictable weather,
from baseball in the snow,
from sledding in the rain,
from rolling down hot hills.
I’m from half-witted education and
new systems of teaching
From programming robots.
From abandoned learning,
From accelerated feeblemindedness.
I’m from the North or South.
From the Black & White
From the freedom of oppression
and the imprisonment of expression.
Where I’m from?
Did you guess?
I’m from Saint Louis.
I remember New York vividly
As the place I go to be free
The city is draped in vibrant colors and personalities
Images of my childhood fill my mind when I go back
Flickering memories of Flatbush bring me joy
Though sadness is soon to follow once I realize that those
Were only mere memories
Soon it will be over a decade since the city has truly been my home
Though it feels as if I still am there
When I go back to New York I walk confidently through the East Village
Because I know that one day I will be back
Ready to regain what was once mine
But until then I just walk
Where I Come From
I return home to Colorado love lying
to get there I navigate
boring education with a purpose
Struggling through the thickets of
suggestions and advice,
I work to return home
every cent that flows through is
I return home to Colorado lovelying.
There I may breathe visible air
There the community
understands the meaning of “conservation”
of the soul, body, and wilderness.
Climbing to Colorado doesn’t mean
stairs in an office building.
Climbing is freedom,
Climbing is a mission.
The land of unbroken spirit
The land of a new story.
Down to Reality
I hail from a Dojo
inside of a castle
upon a mountain
hidden within a jungle, encased by a city
where freedom rings and
with the melody of tranquility,
who grips her lover enlightenment
in her arms until they create their baby nirvana
who eases my mind
as my muse
while I become one with myself until
I am awoken to the reality of my own American struggle
like a brick through a window
I return to get back on my American hustle
for the cream
that almighty capital Green
the big faces that rule over all as
the kings of our dreams
and aspirations who we work for to please until they share with us
fragments of who they really are
and what they can do for us
or who they can put against us
as we break our backs for their
until it’s too late for us to go back
and take a different path.
I still look back on the fondness
of those nights.
The moon in all its terrifying glory
held the key to something so beautiful.
My memories of clear night skies in Arkansas.
The place which had a way of helping you to breathe
a little better.
Memories as infinite as the stars in
the sky. And just as
Memories not worth remembering
a plague to the mind.
I told you the moon was
terrifying. But it was a bond I felt
to Arkansas lying in bed. It
felt the further South I went
in the country the further back
I went in my mind.
Memories of fireflies, and creeks,
trees, and stone.
Bored Sundays and rainy
summers. Emphatic springs and
dull winters, But most of all,
City of Danger
I call my city the city of danger due
to all of the bad vibes
The sketchy looks from random people to all the
crimes of homicide
Riots over Black lives cause cops only killing black lives
due to skin pigment
Racist white refers to us as “niggas”
but that word’s definition is a person of ignorance
“He doesn’t deserve to breathe over something he can’t control”
Answer who’s really the “nigga.”
Black Lives Matter movement start again with Michael Brown
a soon-to-be college student gunned down in our home town
As the movement speeds as too the violence did
from Freddy Grey to Sandra Blaine we chant Black Lives
across the states
I call my city “city of danger” cause look what it nationalized
This isn’t the first you heard of this city and surely won’t
be the end.
I come from a place where a sense of power is needed.
And those who have power
The sense of,
is where I’m from.
Childish adults that demand respect,
“I am the adult and you are the child!”
Teenagers on social media playing tough, showing weapons and drugs,
just to get attention.
Above all the common rabble is a giant figure.
Neither male or female.
Black khaki pants,
blue collared shirt.
A strange metal object sits on their hip.
An object that decides a poor soul’s fate.
This separate being,
holds their fists over my home.
For the chance to demonstrate their power.
Born in Oklahoma, I’ve never been back.
I remember Mississippi clearly as the place I go
Living there on holidays, summers, and occasions.
From a little girl I saw darkness, big scary animals, emptiness, and strangers.
Now I see nature, loving creatures, landscapes, and family.
Not all the cities are the same in Mississippi.
There are different shapes, sizes, populations, productions, and lands.
Driving an hour or hours to get to the
nearest mall or Walmart
Population ranked 32nd most extensive with 3 million people.
Magnolia is the flower of Mississippi.
Come to Mississippi on your drive and you
lose close plazas and
gain more trees.
No Walgreens down the street,
No Neighborhood Park,
Not all cities are the same.
Narrow roads, deer crossing the street, look out a window and randomly
see a raccoon on your porch.
It’s not bad living
but peaceful, spaceful, and relief.
When I go back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi
I let down my window and let out every
excuse, conflict, and worry
so that I arrive,
nothing but happiness.
The Place I Go
I remember Houston clearly as the place I go.
The highways are like cosmic waves
floating through space.
Cars flying like they have no time to
Very fast pace,
Let’s go back to space, to spiritual place.
Thousands of crystals floating around
manifesting their own destiny.
making sure everything’s okay.
I remember the library fondly as the place I go.
The eyes of America
viewing our history as its own
then recording it for us to take home,
to our future.
I lived in the library to escape.
The archivic bird is a hoarder.
The archivic flower is silence,
which sounds surpressing,
though it is merely still and respectful as words.
A bookworm can respectfully use the word “words,”
can silently read the words, still.
Where I Come From
I come from stereotypes.
You’re light-skinned, therefore you’re mixed.
You’re black, therefore you’re DUMB.
You are a spectacle of sand blown in the ocean breeze,
Therefore you a long forgotten dream.
Birmingham may by the right thumb of America
But it’s stereotypes will not be a part of me,
As I reflect back to my family tree.
I know this life is worth living.
My ancestors work soooo hard to get where I am today.
Black, intelligent, and free.
Where I’m From
From the mental barriers placed upon me,
I’m from a happy single story home in Saint Louis.
waking up, feeling as though the entire world is smiling on me.
I’m from the lack of bad intentions expected from strangers.
I’m also from heads hanging in depression,
I’m from realizing that I can’t blindly bring anyone out of their depression anymore,
I’m from glimpses of the cold, hard truth.
America’s River Tide
I come from the dirty left foot of America
caked in dirt, from walking through the waste of a cruel world.
I come from my ancestors
who live deep down in the delta
I come from “Yes Sir,” “No Sir,” and “Please, Sir”
I come from master’s house and cotton fields
I come from white man’s land and the lash of white man’s hand
I’ve lived in my ancestors for 18 years
which is cold and messy
An African American can call this place “home”
and can calmly call a white man “brother”
I come from Mississippi
only because it’s a place I love to go
I come from dark, narrow words
From hot sunny days, and farm animals
I come from an empty landscape that’s not really empty
I come from the history they tell us to forget
Yet they can’t accept the white house being the black house
for almost eight years
I come from Mississippi, the place less racist
than where I’m living now in Saint Louis
Technically, I come from the Northside of the city
Yet I can still have a great view of the river they call
So I come from “The Mississippi”
I’m floating on the river’s tide
But I’m slowly sinking due to the fact
you never forget how to live in history
when you’re from America
I Remember St. Louis As
the place I go to be in nostalgic sorrow.
The middle of America.
The mournful heart of loss.
Loss of ambition, loss of political consciousness, loss of originality and passion.
I’ve lived in St.louis for 16 years. The state bird is a baseball team mascot,
desperate to liberate the state from their segregation.
When I drive through the streets,
I see abandoned houses, shirtless children attending street school.
I watch my white family with bright white teeth
scowl and make sarcastic
jokes as we pass our scholars.
Never have I been more ashamed of my flag. But we have our churches and charities in case anyone suspects our cynicism.
We suck the breast of privilege as our citizens are motherless.
We enjoy the botanical gardens and Zoo and exclaim about our wonderful tax dollar investments,
while our friends starve.
Winter comes three months later in St. Louis.
It teases with a 70 degree
Christmas and then the cold smacks you
in the face in February.
Seattle looks like Jamaica compared to our dark gloomy sub season.
Our state motto is “Salus populi suprema lex esto”, which means
“Let the health of the people be the supreme law”,
the very plague among our most fruitful livestock.
Men pursue their perfume and women pursue their lipstick.
We prevent the forest fires that clean out the brush among our oldest forests.
Though there is hope. Our “arrogant”,
“Ignorant” “lazy” youth
that are proclaimed to be the filth of the nation may be more conscious of the solution than we think.
I remember New York bustling,
the place I go to be in the creative and structured mind of America,
hard-working, bold, tall, passionate, and optimistic
Tall, sky-scraper-like buildings crowded with
ethnicities, ideas, from
smokey corners to long highways. I lived in
New York for two weeks, but in my heart,
seventeen years. The state bird is comfort and
easy access to all. The state flower is
competition and loneliness which sounds confusing
but it is the reality of the city and
like a brick is solid.
A New Yorker can use the word solid,
and prove to you in their everyday life how solid
they have to be in this city. In truth
New York is not new. Whenever
I visit New York I fly through several states.
Intersecting signs reading Broadway Street or
Wall Street faded out by smoke from pot holes uncovering bags of garbage.
So life is full of beep, beep, beep, GO AHEAD, I yell at the
other taxi, which we’re not getting along with
on account of who goes first to make that turn
before the light turns red and I’m late to being a star.
Then all of a sudden
New York goes beep, beep, billboards of
different broadway shows, Statue of Liberty, goodbye time, patience, and noticing
the simple things in life.
You never forget how to be from New York when you’re from New York.
I Shall Flee From Thee
I remember Saint Louis as
the stinky armpit of America,
carrying bloodstained banners private yet proudly
hardening its heart to lock away
to never see again. I lived in this grey
my whole life. The silenced bird.
The streets are both normal and other-worldly
Metro-ers can say “nigga” like the word hi.
In truth hi is not a hi,
it’s a lie. When I go back to Saint Louis
I go through the maize of milk
straight through 44 hell.
So I go and glare at the milkmen.
I raise my fist in defiance. We aren’t to get along,
yet we do. We stand in revelry and behold
the burning melting pot.
Then Ferguson goes burn, burn, burn, stay, burn
stay, stay, stay, silence.
You never forget how to be from…
the stinky left armpit of America.
I remember the way I used to be
to be who I was, the anchor of negativity
pulling in vibes from left to right
influencing one’s mind like a television show
from childhood to teenage years. I was that way
four years. The stereotypes was who I was. The correct
way to be was the Statue of Liberty, which sounds uplifting
though it is merely shattered and indecisive
A “bad” child could use the word “changed”
can sincerely use the word “sincere”
In truth who I was, was not hurt nor ashamed
When I reflect back on that little girl, I go through pain
There is a leaping fault in her, so life
goes pain, pain, pain, I cry for her
She didn’t know her potential
she smiles from ear to ear
then she goes pain, pain, pain
her depressed days, goodbye but you never forget
how happiness feels when you’ve felt pain
It’s like winning the pottery as a poor child
Prayer is like the best medicine
in case she forgets. She is now
happy, which is the greatest gift
but is named as strength
She lives in strength again, which is beautiful
Culture, life, seclusiveness, music
is where I come from. Powell
Hall is my symphony of happiness
and tranquility. A Saint Louis can
use the word pretentious,
can artistically use the word art when
walking through a marble high
building while critiquing someone’s
expression. I remember Saint Louis
fondly as the place I go to be
in Saint Louis. August is the nudest
month in Saint Louis.
Mind the naked butt cheeks
on the cushioned bicycle seats;
you unfortunately can see it
clearly when driving down
Washington Ave. We are people
who want to illuminate the
sky with pinwheels and glow
when First Night arrives.
We are a city with
a past filled with discrimination
and mournfulness. There’s a day
in August when we are all
depressed and sorrow
is everywhere and racism
gets to the best of U.S.
When a man mentions
Michael Brown you know
where he’s from. But enough
of these woes.
I go back to Saint Louis
I drive through excitement and adventure.
There is off East 44
an arch. So life goes building, skyscraper,
I wave at Eero Saarinen and
Hannskal Bandel. You never forget
how to be from Saint Louis
when you’re from Saint Louis.
But enough of my grand soliloquy
Where are you from?
I Remember Saint Louis
I remember Saint Louis sympathetically
as the place I go. It’s the clenched fist of America
unacceptance and violence coursing throughout
the city. Hatred embedding into the brain
like a child learning vocabulary.
I’ve lived here in Saint Louis seventeen years
The city bird is a smoking gun. The city flower
is a black boy’s body in the broken streets.
A Saint Louisan can use the word injustice
and can untruthfully use the word “truth”
In reality the city is violent and broken
I walk through the Saint Louis streets
watching as buildings crumble like the sidewalks.
Life goes abandoned building, abandoned building,
abandoned building, ornate church.
I wave at the blue uniform officers
who we’re not getting along with
on account of their steady hands on a trigger as
lies form on their tongues.
Saint Louis streets then go
abandoned building, abandoned building
abandoned building, packed funeral home.
Goodbye life, liberty, and the pursuit of
You never forget how to be from Saint Louis
when you’re from Saint Louis.
I remember Saint Louis
as the place I go
to be in Saint Louis.
The new war zone of America
Holding beautiful black bloodies shot down
Police using coffins as stepping stones
Mother widowed of her child. Saint Louis
from the beginning of time is
Now an empty nest
The state flower is morbidity
The state flower to them is blue blood shed
which to us is a lie
though it is merely cold and dark as truth
A widowed mother knows truth
She can sincerely use the word sincere
In truth Saint Louis is not justice or resolved
When I drive back to Saint Louis I drive through
red blood shed.
I see poverty weeping with sorrow
So life here is red, red, blue
I wave at a blue life
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the bodies as I pass
They see blue, blue, blue red.
They see #All Lives Matter goodbye #Black Lives
You never forget how to be from
oppression when you’re from Saint Louis.
I remember Washington unfortunately.
The armpit of America,
Desperately reaching to be something,
A tiny speck on the map
Nothing more than a rest stop for most
From kindergarden to awkward middle school I lived there
9 years. The Washington Bird,
a trailer park filled with meth labs
The flower, judgment, which sounds cliché
Though it’s merely shallow as hell
Anyone in Washington can use the word hell.
When I go back to Washington I drive through MO
Off the highway a polluted river… So life…
Cows cows cows cows
I wave at anyone different
Which they refuse to get along with
Apparent by all the confederate flags I pass
STL goes, cows, cows, cows
Goodbye diversity and social acceptance.
You wish you could forget when you live in Washington.