“Where I’m From” by Willie Perdomo
Because she liked the “kind of music” that I listened to and she liked the way I walked as well as the way I talked, she always wanted to know where I was from.
If I said that I was from 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, right in the heart of a transported Puerto Rican town, where the hodedores live and night turns to day without sleep, do you think then she might know where I was from?
Where I’m from, Puerto Rico stays on our minds when the fresh breeze of café con leche y pan con montequilla comes through our half‐open windows and under our doors while the sun starts to rise.
Where I’m from, babies fall asleep to the bark of a German Shepherd named Tarzan. We hear his wandering footsteps under a midnight sun. Tarzan has learned quickly to ignore the woman who begs her man to stop slapping her with his fist. “Please baby! Por favor! I swear it wasn’t me. I swear to my mother. Mameeee!!” (her dead mother told her this would happen one day.)
Where I’m from, Independence Day is celebrated every day. The final gunshot from last night’s murder is followed by the officious knock of a warrant squad coming to take your bread, coffee and freedom away.
Where I’m from, the police come into your house without knocking. They throw us off rooftops and say we slipped. They shoot my father and say he was crazy. They put a bullet in my head and say they found me that way.
Where I’m from, you run to the hospital emergency room because some little boy spit a razor out of his mouth and carved a crescent into your face. But you have to understand, where I’m from even the dead have to wait until their number is called.
Where I’m from, you can listen to Big Daddy retelling stories on his corner. He passes a pint of light Bacardi, pouring the dead’s tributary swig unto the street. “I’m God when I put a gun to your head. I’m the judge and you in my courtroom.”
Where I’m from, it’s the late night scratch of rats’ feet that explains what my mother means when she says slowly, “Bueno, mijo, eso es la vida del pobre.” (Well, son, that is the life of the poor.)
Where I’m from, it’s sweet like my grandmother reciting a quick prayer over a pot of hot rice and beans. Where I’m from, it’s pretty like my niece stopping me in the middle of the street and telling me to notice all the stars in the sky.
Where I’m From Writing Assignment
Now, it’s your turn to write your own poem about where you’re from—in this case, your selected community. First, read the requirements, and then thoughtfully complete the prewriting worksheet. In three short steps, you’ll be on your way to a great poem about your very own community!
- 6 stanza
- Stanzas 2‐6 must begin with parallel structure
- The stanzas should follow a time continuum (morning to night or sundown to sunup, etc.)
- Use a mix of positive and negative images
- Use words that appeal to all five senses
- Use similes or metaphors and onomatopoeia, if you can!
- 2 occasions of dialogue (Be daring! Try another language!)
- Don’t rhyme!
Jumping Off Point:
This part should be easy. Copy the lines below into a Google Document, then just fill in the blanks with your own words, but imitate Perdomo’s poem: “If I said that I was from 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, right in the heart of a transported Puerto Rican town, where the hodedores live and night turns to day without sleep, do you think then she might know where I was from?”
If I said I was from <a specific place on the map>, where <use language to describe who lives here and what happens here>, would you know where I’m from?
Make a Game Plan
Stanzas Two through Six
Since this poem is to be in time order, think about what time you will begin and end. Morning to night? Sundown to sun up? After school to sleep at night? Friday afternoon to Sunday night? (Perdomo starts in the morning and ends with the night sky.)
What will your time span be?
Since you also must use parallel structure, what line will you use to begin stanzas two through six? (“Where I’m from…” “On my block…” etc.)
Lastly, you need to use a mix of positive and negative images. What ideas do you have about your actual community? What order will you use?
Highlight and copy this table and paste it into the Google Doc where you started Stanza One. Add details to this table on Docs.
Idea (or Main Image) for Stanza
Positive or Negative Image
In Google Docs, write your own “where I’m from” type poem using the worksheet as a guide. Don’t forget about the requirements!