Age: 16, Grade: 11
School Name: Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY
Educators: Danielle Sheeler, Madeline Taylor
Where I’m From
I am from hide and seek, feet squelching in backyard grass,
the stars my favorite nightlights.
I am from tomorrow’s now today, lullabies calming
the restlessness until I can’t remember
how they begin.
I am from the town outside my sister’s window, now mine
the way the wood of the windowsill creaks under my weight
as I vault myself over and onto the roof
and I am from all the times I dreamed I flew
above Manzanares el Real, my own Tar Beach, a la Madrileña.
If I am from Madrid, though I first came home there
at three months, then I am from Canarias–
saltwater, knotted tree trunks, sunshine-yellow tiles
the princess of a tiny island, my own time zone, announced on the radio–
or maybe I am not. I never liked the beach, anyway.
Maybe I am from Logroño–
covered in wine, stone walls and a fiery hearth
ancient remnants of Basque like a phantom limb
in my town’s body, all washed down with a bottle of cider–
or maybe I never was. If even my grandparents’ memories blur
how can I claim any clarity in my heritage?
Where I know I’m from: the Greenberg Pavilion
at New York Hospital, suspended above the FDR
the last time I fell asleep on the Upper East Side.
I’m from Chaia Doveva, the bear of life
my own Hebrew name like a hand-me-down
sweater I have yet to grow into.
(cable knit, rolled sleeves dragging.)
I am from dreams and songs, the ones I carry
through the day like lucky charms.
The Cape Cod dream and the Indigo Girls’
whole discography are the lucky pennies
lining my pockets–you could shake me out
and I’d jingle with guitars and ocean spray.
I am from the way I can never write about a place
or a home until I’ve left it, my memories like windchimes
forming stanzas from gentle collisions.
According to my poetry, the present is a myth.
I am from never being where I want to be —
insomnia following me into the morning.
I am from too many words to pin down and collect,
I am from innumerable names and those unnamable.
I am from the light of the Big Dipper sneaking in
through a door left ajar.