Sandra S. McRae: Where I Come From
after F. Isabel Campoy
I come from a fledgling suburb
in a state that lost its mind with beauty
but coped by building tract homes and strip malls.
Where I come from, everyone calls out to friends
from patios studded with braziers
across yards littered with bicycles
sandboxes and panting mutts.
Cookouts are a seasonal language
but by summer everyone is fluent
in potato salad.
I come from slopes of purple-flecked bindweed
and drainage ditches where on hot days we scour for crawdads
hiding in the shadows of scraggly Russian olives.
We sneeze until October.
I come from a living room framed
by a jumble of scratchy couches.
The green one hides a sofa bed
because it is good to have space
with train cases and presents
speaking Italian loudly.
They do yoga right there in the living room
until we drag them into the kitchen
for honey buns and card games.
They dole out dollar bills from leather coin purses
that look like the money pouches
carried in fairy tales.
Where I come from
we shoot out the back door like cannons
and race to the park.
The hot metal bars of the jungle gym sear our palms
until we give up and run for Icees at the 7-11.
Their domes of cherry sweetness tower over
the curled paper edges of the waxed cups.
In the tinny sunshine
drops of condensation slide between
the cups and our hands, cooling our blisters.
Where I come from we only stop talking
when a frosty gulp
gives us a friendly punch in the throat
to say: You’re all right, kid.
Where I come from, the evenings are perfumed with anise
from steam escaping the pizzelle iron
ciamello baking in the oven.
On the stove salted water simmers a warm welcome
to homemade ravioli
that slide eagerly into its open arms.
Where I come from
bath time is a necessary evil
but we strip and slip into the hot water
anyway. It stings the raw spot
between our toes
where the rubber thongs of flip-flops
are doing their best to toughen us
for the long haul.
There are band-aids and sunburns
in our future, but first
and sweet dreams
of where we’re going.
Sandra S. McRae teaches writing at a college near Denver, Colorado. Her prose poetry collection The Magic Rectangle is forthcoming from Folded Word (2017), and her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including DISARM, Glass, Steam Ticket, Poets Against War, MAW, Word Riot, and Pure Francis. She also co-authored the bestselling cookbook Weber’s Big Book of Grilling (Chronicle, 2001). Sandra earned her master’s at the University of Colorado-Boulder and was awarded a Fulbright Grant to Germany. Since she keeps dreaming about the year she studied French literature in Bordeaux, France, she decided to write a memoir about it. She lives in the mountains with her family, their two dogs, and some gentle bears. Visit Sandra at www.WordsRunTogether.com.