Poem of the Month: I Am From by Ruby Parra

I am from my old wooden dresser
handed down to me from my father’s childhood
slapped with my random stickers
from over the years
that were hard to peel off
when I got too old for them

I am from the Pizzanista sticker
with a wrinkle in it
on the street sign at my corner
still there from the night, long ago,
when that was still my favorite restaurant
and I was still small enough
to be lifted onto my daddy’s shoulders
to put it up there.
(And from my mom scolding him
for letting me do that.)

I am from the Meyer lemon tree
in our backyard
that bites me with its thorns
when I’m sent out back to gather
ingredients for lemonade.
And from avoiding the lowest hanging fruit
because of spiderwebs.

I am from pranking —
and being pranked —
on our family’s favorite holiday:
April Fool’s.

I am from laughing so hard I can’t even breathe.
From family jokes
and calling my grandparents in Wisconsin
every day
to retell funny stories from our lives
to make them laugh, too.

I am from hilarious parents,
each funny in their own ways,
who crack each other up
and have taught us the art
of teasing each other
and not taking ourselves too seriously.

I am from always being answered with
“maybe” or “we’ll see”
by distracted parents
and grumbling with my brother.

From my grandpa whispering
“Who will know the secrets of the sea?”
and encouraging us to explore our minds.

I am from Hamilton songs
and memorizing lyrics
with my trap of a brain.
I am from dancing to unwind
and forget my troubles.
From choreographing with my best friend
and the rush of excitement from performing on stage.

I’m from chocolate chip banana bread
and purple power smoothies.
I am from the steaming sesame buns
at Din Tai Fung that are worth the two-hour wait to sit down.

I am from my mom’s famous baking
and themed cakes
decorated with colorful sprinkles and banners
for every occasion.

I am from my dad’s restaurants
where he is a chef,
and delicious food
that is sometimes named for me.

I am from my beloved baby brother,
Nico,
being born too soon,
and being fed popsicles by Zak’s mom
who was trying to keep my mind off
the news I was waiting for.

I am from worrying about Nico
during his first two years
when he kept landing himself
in the hospital.
And from helping with his speech therapy
And pretending to be his mom.

I am also from Nico
getting bigger
stronger
and more embarrassing
over the years.

I am from Klub Gymnastics
and movie nights there.
And from Nico walking out of their bathroom
into the crowded gym
with no pants on
yelling for me to help him with his underwear.

I am from a tiny apartment in Brooklyn,
and shared beds.

From a strong immune system
my mom swears is because
I licked the poles inside of subway cars
when I was little.

I am from doing whatever it takes
to wear my parents down
so they would finally get me a dog
like I’d dreamed of for years.

I am from having to quickly adapt to online learning
and sheltering in place
in a tiny house
with my mom, dad, brother, dog, and two cats.
I am from being at my grandparents’ house
every day after school
to suddenly only being able to see them
from a distance
with a mask on my face.
From my grandma sending me
daily postcards
from a few miles away.

I am from my ancestors
from Chile
from Mexico
from Europe
from the Mayflower
from an Inca princess.
And I am from
myself.

 

 

Ruby is in 6th grade at Thomas Starr King middle school in Los Angeles.  This is her first published poem.

11 Comments


  1. Ruby, that is a wonderful poem and very accomplished. You obviously have a “trap of a brain” and used it amazingly well in this poem. So much to admire here. So filled with love and discovery. And very clever. Sometimes it does pay “to do whatever it takes” to wear parents down, particularly for a dog.

    My day was turned from so so to wonderful from reading your poem.

    More please!

    Reply

  2. A memorable poem from talent–took me back 70 years to a family growing up. Especially liked the wisdom of the grandpa—know the sea. Thanks for sharing this gift.

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  3. Thank you, everyone, for your encouraging comments to Ruby about her poem. She was thrilled to get them.

    Reply

  4. What a beautiful and insightful poem. Like grandmother, like granddaughter. I was experiencing everything you experienced.

    Ruby, you are a gem! Please share more of your beautiful talent.

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  5. Reading your poem filled with new delights and images of your life, made me smile this morning. Such a great way to start the day. Thanks, Ruby. I loved it, every word! , Sarah

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  6. Dear Ruby,
    I know your father and your grandparents, but I never met you, but after reading your amazing poem, I feel that I had glimpse into your life.
    Keep on writing!

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  7. Your poem is gold box loaded with diamonds and pearls and Rubies!.
    thanks for sharing.

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  8. I am filled with joy and awe after reading Ruby’s poem! What writing, what humor. what grace. I thought this would be another day in Covidtown but alas it has been a spectacular night for me. I watched the doc My Teacher, The Octopus and then came up to my office and read Ruby’s poem. It doesn’t get much better than that. Bravo Ruby!

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  9. I enjoyed Ruby’s very vivid and colorful descriptions of the many things from her memories. She put many pictures in my brain.
    Wonderful writer…..taking after her Grandmother!
    Thank you, Ruby. Keep on writing.

    Reply

  10. Amazing poem! A journey through time and space, filled with wonder. Ruby is a gifted writer.

    Reply

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