by Lisa Wersal
"Where are you from?" they ask.
Before they tell us anything about the pottery we are admiring:
sharp blade etching, clay essence,
singed horsehair stain,
Yucca leaf brushing;
Before they speak of honoring ancestors, of adhering to
Before they unlock the code of encrypted symbols:
kiva steps, hallowed mountains,
“Where are you from?"
"Minnesota," we say. Land of sky-tinted waters, where rains
are plentiful, the growing season long enough for
steady yields of corn, alfalfa;
Black loam, nutrient-rich - our backyards sprout
fragrant lilacs, crisp rhubarb,
But here, the parched soil and massive rocks are blood red,
the heart of the Earth exposed,
its beat palpable.
Pilgrims flock here in droves,
to likewise have their hearts
to be reminded of who they are.
We find them wherever we go, and we, too, feel compelled
"Where are you from?"
“Outskirts of Chicago.”
“Everywhere – a ‘military brat'.”
Some speak languages that give away their origins: French, Italian,
Japanese, German, something that sounds Scandinavian,
another, Slavic or Russian.
A silent group of men with shaved heads and saffron robes look to be
Tibetan Buddhist monks. Women wound in bright saris,
jangling with gold bracelets, chatter in Hindi. Couples in
distinctively drab Amish attire, smile and nod Pennsylvanian.
Here, we are all in agreement – Natives, immigrants,
locals, transients – all admiring the same
vistas, straddling jagged crevasses,
trudging arduous snaking
trails, descending to
our feet blessed
by the same
limits of exertion
and exhilaration, awestruck
by senna, rust, magenta; The Earth
crying out, summoning; Innermost cores
opening, melding, sacred renewal of primeval
fiery bonds; Mother Gaia needn’t ask – She knows
Where we’re from.