Where I Come From


for Mom

Stories are a part of my life because of her.
They are a part of everyone’s life but not so vividly,
Nor so intimately, as they are in my life
Because she valued story and books and poems.

 We took the station wagon to the Pryor Public Library
Once a week and walked out, each of us, with a pile
Of books we could barely carry. They spread
Through our house like amoeba, like fleas, like waters
Unleashed in a basin needing to be filled. She knew
The head librarian, so we could break the rules
And check out forty books at a time, forty books
That would live in us for a week in that house
On the creek, in that place where our stories thrived.

Poetry is a part of my life because of her.
Poetry is not a thing of value in the schools of our past,
In the halls of teenagers and in the cafes of Locust Grove,
The alleys of a town intent on staying safe and common.

 I wrote poetry because there were Rod McKuen books
In the house that she read and there were Childcraft volumes
Full of poetry and stories and spool craft and furniture
Designs for matchbooks. I wrote in secret and kept the poems
Under lock and key in a metal file box or under the tiles
Of the roof when we moved to town. She designed 10th grade
English assignments when I was in her class solely
To make me turn in my poetry, and she encouraged it
And me and valued it and me and was proud of my poet self.

Love is a part of my life because of her.
Love is not a part of many people’s lives, not a set of clothes
That many are comfortable in or familiar with. So many people
Do not know the warmth of wearing love like a warm sweater.

She stayed with us at home until David was in school, then
Returned to school and began the work that she excelled at
Which is why I can do anything I want to now, which is why
None of us have ever been held back by a voice saying,
“You cannot.” She loved us and taught us and scolded us
And flicked the porch light constantly to make me come in,
And drove my friends and me to concerts and one Christmas
Had our babysitter make me a box of magical clothes
For my Barbies that astounded me and I will never forget.

–Shaun Perkins

4 thoughts on “Where I Come From”

  1. This is a such a beautiful tribute. Your poetry brings a sense of contentment and inner peace as I remember my Mother and the love of reading she instilled in me. We have both been blessed.

  2. This took me back to my childhood and my life long affair with books. I remember library cards with the number embossed on a metal plate, looking through the card catalog for books for a report and definitely the giddiness I felt walking out of the library with a stack of books. Those are some of the sweetest memories of my life. Thanks for jogging them to the front of my brain today.

    1. Thank you, Verla. I remember those kinds of library cards, too, and writing my name on the card inside each book and reading the names of people who had checked out the book before me!

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