“I Am”, an evolving poem

I Am Poem Draft One, Poetry Class 1/21/14 

I am from Flint, Michigan, the automobile town, grey and cold.

School was warmth, neighborhood friends at home were pain.

Family was steady; home smelled of books.  The shelves

in our house were candy stores to me. I learned, maybe

too much at times.  Even then, sometimes lonely and misunderstood.

Fantasy worlds, both in movies and books.  A Wrinkle in Time,

Neverending Story, The Last Unicorn.  I wanted to go to Narnia,

To enchanted forests, back in time to Rome and Greece.

Lucky for me, I could.  Even then, I cried too much.

I learned to dry the tears, “you’re too sensitive,” they’d say.

I cried, but then I got tough, strong.  I made good grades,

and I knew life would one day be better, mostly better. 

 

Atlanta, Georgia.  Braces. Jaw surgery.  Sweltering heat.

Middle school track star, high school drama and chorus nerd.

Mostly A student, had both preppy friends and misfit friends.

Learned to adapt, to connect. Like a pot of water that’s slow to

Heat, yet bubbly once you get it warm.  Summer writing camps

And life long friends.  Felt less misunderstood, more normal.

 

College at UGA: parties, started drinking, started praying. 

Best friends in the musty old dorm called Rutherford. 

Read many books and wrote many essays and poems.

At 21, taught high school students.  Had to grow up fast.

Too fast, perhaps.  Started master’s classes at 22.

What do you want to do with your life, they’d ask.

I want to write and travel.  That’s not the responsible

Choice, they’d say.  Had to grow up fast.  Too fast.

 

Early to mid twenties: South Atlanta: taught kids,

Drank to excess with young friends, traveled, dated,

Loved.  Love failed, but friendship remained. 

Graded paper after paper.  Grew tired, worked in

Texas in 2006, where I came to my own once again.

Then moved back to the north side, taught middle school.

Kids who would change me forever, mostly for the better.  

 

Early 30s: Needed a change, moved to Athens,

Started a Ph.D. program, friends and professors

Made me think, made me question everything.

Felt disconnected from some friends in Atlanta,

But tried to keep them in my life,

At times almost to a fault. 

Reading, thinking, theorizing, feeling, wanting connection.

Thinking, Writing, being truly challenged for the first time.  

Good restaurants, great friends, understanding bosses

For the first time, professors who want what’s best for me.

One is like my dad, one is like my mom.  The others

My aunts or big sisters.  Push me, but still love me.

I’m allowed to be great but not perfect.

I don’t have to be perfect.  I learn for the first time.

I’m still exceptional.  I will be my own me,

Not the shadow of my mom and dad, already published.

Pressure is dissipating.  I’m my own me, my own writer,

My own creative thinker, my own future professor.  

Wanting to marry another academic, another writer.

Not sure what that side of my future holds.

Curious, but no longer afraid.  I can stand alone

And not be lonely because people here care.  

 

Cousins love me, their house in Atlanta

Is home for me.  Love my parents,

But Texas is not home.  Atlanta and Athens

Are my two homes, and I love both for different reasons.

Atlanta my past, Athens the ticket to my future.  

I invite my friends and family to my home in Athens.

We drink wine, talk, play silly but fun card games

Until late at night.  One Atlanta friend who I could have

Loved not longer cares.  But I have to move forward.

Dating new boys, trying to find love, yet I already have

Love, just not the kind you find in storybooks.

I love Friere, children’s books, deep discussions with

People who actually seem to know where I am from

Mentally and emotionally, and I don’t have to be perfect.

I can just be me.  

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