I’m from “Daddy’s not coming back.” on my 2nd Christmas
And my first prayer to God that taught me “no” is an answer too.
I’m from the smell of mothballs when we moved in with Grandma
And toast with melted Mozzarella on top
I’m from the “Daily Bread” Bible verses she made us read before every meal
And the Family Bible that had my Dad’s name in it even if he wasn’t there to read it to me.
I’m from sneaking into the children’s ward of the hospital to see my little brother
And Uncle Willy making a funny sound with his mouth to let me know he was here to pick me up.
I’m from a 21 gun salute at my grandfather’s funeral,
The sound shaking my body, the smoke rising as if it were going to join my grandfather in heaven, and the warm hands of Granddaddy’s friend covering my ears telling me that I don’t need to cry.
And I’m from the broken promise of that last tear that I told myself I would never let fall again.
I’m from both sides of the tracks–
Struggling during the school year
Financially secure in the summer.
Black experience with my mom’s family
And a minority in my father’s household
Rendering me too Black and never Black enough for some folks.
I’m from a Black mom, a white stepmom, and an immigrant dad who was both and neither and my identity formed in the Void.
I’m from sitting in the dark in that mothball closet fussing with God about all that had been taken from me
And a peace that surpasses all understanding that told me nothing God gives is ever lost.
I’m from going to the Deacon Board at age 6 and asking to be baptized before the age of accountability
And their warning that if I backslid and sinned after my immersion the penalty of eternal damnation was on me.
I’m from childlike confidence that I could live a sin free life.
So I submitted to the capable hands of Pastor Fleming who joked with me up to the baptismal tub, said the words that made me new, and lowered me into the water.
I’m from the awareness that sin abounds, but grace abounds more.
Countless hours alone,
Making best friends with books,
Corn flakes for multiple meals,
Never knowing what utility might get cut off,
The smell of a borrowed kerosene heater, and my mom, brother, and me all sleeping around it.
I’m from respites when the income tax check came.
From a mother who did her best but was broken by a life of endless stress.
I’m from being a Black man in America
Trying to learn to live without looking over my shoulder because Black Lives Matter and absence from the body is presence with the Lord.
I’m from not knowing where I belong
But trusting that I am welcome wherever God is.
I’m from not wanting anyone to go through what I’ve been through
Because to me this is loving neighbor as myself.
I’m from still being that little boy trying to not cry unless I know that someone cares.
I’m from losing a child to racism in a way that makes my face warm to think about
And at the end of a broken heart, trying to become a car selling monk.
From a woman who entered my life through an email and ended my monastic aspirations.
I’m from having a child at 32 and 41 when I expected to have none.
I’m from a house full of emotions that I lived a lifetime trying to avoid.
I’m from trying to be the father I never had and the husband my mother never had so that I can be the man God created me to be.
I’m from that baptismal tub that eternally abides making me new each day
And from laughing with people who know similar suffering.
And I am from the words of Jesus that said, “If you want to follow me, take up your cross and bear it.”
I am from all of this and more.
And I am from grace,
The Pearl of Great Price for which I count all things as loss so that one day I will learn to receive everything that truly matters.
This is where I’m from.
Where are you from?
© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II
This poem was written in response to a writing prompt in a retreat on calling with Karen Herring sponsored through First Congregational Church Boulder. It is based on the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.