Pythian Games

put on your track shoes and write the miles

My Identity Poem

with 10 comments

Seeking the Identity of a GwenGuin 

And all that is bright 

I am from:

Needlework baskets

By the women’s’ chairs,

And United Auto Workers’ founders.

I grew up on stories of my

Grandmother DeShaw

Passing meals through the windows

Of the

Buick Powerhouse to my

Grandfather during

The sit-down strikes

Demonstrating the power of a

United workforce. 

I am from the two-story

Farmhouses of the

Northern Mid-West,

Built with sheltered doorways

So you could still

Get out of your house despite

‘Lake Effects Snow’

And windblown drifts up to the

Bedroom windows of the upper floor.

I am from rows of gleaming jars

Filled with the spiced crab apples,

Pickled red beets, and

Pickled Ring Bologna made from

Recipes passed on for


I am from the Great Lakes,

In all their moods and seasons;

I am from coming to love the

Sonoran Desert

For her determination,

Adaptability and passion.

I am from standing

On the shore of the

Pacific Ocean,

Wondering how many millions of

Others she touched too; and

I am from having

Crater Lake

Burned upon the retina of my memory. 

I grew up with

Sunday Dinner after Mass,

And dimples dancing with

Everyone’s’ smiles and words:

I am descended of

‘Big Joe’ DuBay,

Hyachinthe Charlesbois’

And the Compeaus

Of Compeau Blvd.,

In Detroit, Michigan

I am from

Daughters of the American Revolution,

And family that have given some

And all

For the U.S.A.

In all of the

Wars this country has fought. 

I am from

Libraries of books

And music

In every home,

Cards and dice that have been

Handed down for generations.

I pass on the photographs and

Verbal tradition of generations past,

I share the songs that defined

So many childhoods.

I am from radios tuned to



Country and Western,

The Blues,


All flavours of Rock and Roll,

And more. 

I am defined by being

Happy and grateful

To be able to help others,

And seeing family

As not determined

By genetics alone;

I am carrying on

The tradition of wanting

To do good

For the sake of doing good.

I am from treating others

With kindness and respect,

And celebrating differences

Instead of fearing them. 

I am from the love of

Reading and learning, and

Love of laughter that has

Helped all of us survive

The worst times in out lives.

I share my respect

Of the written word with









Nieces and Nephews;

All of us learned

To love beauty in all her forms,

And express that love in our own ways. 

I am from being

Unashamed to cry

At the touching parts of a



Or song,

As well as being comfortable

With cheering with joy.

I am from settling on the floor

To play with kids

On their level,

And loving pets like children

Without forgetting

They are animals. 

I am from

Lessons the needed no words


“Gwen, don’t do anything to another

Living creature if you don’t want

It done to you.”

“Oh, Gwen Marie! 

 You are so


I am so proud to be

Your Mother.” 

I am from Catholic family reunions,

Always so large,

They had to be held in a

Rented hall because

No-one’s house could ever

Hope to hold everyone!

I am from the


Dinners that were


After Mass;

With two kinds of

Meat, and




And Breads with butter,

Green onions dipped in salt,

Celery stuffed with‘College’ cheese.

Two kinds of homemade cake

With ice cream. 

I am from



Scots,  and

Irishmen emigrating from

Their homelands to

Canada and the

United States.

I was weaned to

French Meat Pies,

Oyster Stuffing in

Our Holiday Turkey,

“No matter how much we make,

We never make enough

Pecan Balls!”,

Glissant in chicken au jus,

Chicken and Dumplings, and

Girl Scout Cookies in the freezer.

I am from

Chippewa people that

Accepted a stranger, far from

France and Frenchmen,

Married him into their families and

Then chose him as their chief.  

I am from people

Who have been cured with

Rice and Tomato Soup for colds,

Vernors floats for sore throats,

Hot tea with honey, lemon and

A little dash of whiskey always

Chased away the sniffles and sneezes:

I have added to this pharmocopæa

Bay Leaf Oil for many things,

Chamomile tea in the bath

Lavender pillows at our heads, and

Minestrone simmering on the stove

To chase away the blah tummies. 

I am from

Ancient Noblemen, and

Dairy farmers,

Bare-knuckles boxers,

19th century loggers,

Horse Thieves and

Faith Healers,

Factory Workers,



Hard working husbands, whose

Hands built

Neighbourhoods that

Stood for a century.

Stay-at-home Moms,

Brothers and Sisters

That shared

Spirit-deep bonds of


Illegal aliens,

Barkeeps and


I am from afternoons spent

Watching National Geographic,

The Undersea World of

Jacques Cousteau, and

Understanding what he said,

No matter how much

His love for the seas deepened his

French accent,

I am from watching


Let’s Make A Deal,

What’s My Line?, and

All In The Family.

Evenings when 4 and 5

Generations would gather

Playing Po-Ke-No and

‘Tunk’ rum,


Scrabble, and

When they came along



Trivial Pursuit,and

Learning to do

Crossword Puzzles,

Cryptograms or

Other word games. 

I was immersed in all

The men repairing to the

Garage, communing with

Shots of Whiskey,

Icy beers, and the

‘Small’ TV tuned in to the

Game, whether it be



Hockey, or


Done while all the

Women settled in the


Drank coffee,

Swapped Recipes, and

Current Events as their

Children gathered ‘round the

Toy boxes, hand fashioned by

Relatives never met;

Peacefully sharing

Erector sets©,

Lincoln Logs© made of real wood,

Tonka© and

Matchbox© vehicles,

Green plastic army men and trucks,

Plastic farm animals and

Jungle creatures,

Colorforms© dolls,

Colouring books with crayons and

Coloured pencils. 

I am from

Photo Albums in nearly

Every room,

Overflowing boxes of snapshots,


Collections and

Images carefully preserved,

Stories handed down three centuries.

I am the saver of

Great-Great Grandmothers’

Hand Embroidery and tatting,

Silver spoons of the

American Presidents-

Purchased so long ago

John F. Kennedy’s spoon

Is inscribed with his

Term of Office as(1960-         ),

Plates that came to

America from

France through


Canada and into

Michigan before they

Journeyed to

Arizona and

Oregon with me. 

And Dark

I am from

Angry divorces, and

Broken Corning ware,

Food Stamps;

Christmases that mutated into

Drunken brawls poisoned with

Police interventions and

Emergency Room visits. 

I am from

The house that had

Piles of laundry that

Were never washed.

Dirty dishes in

Every room,

Bedding that was thin

Mismatched and uncoordinating, and

Towels worn thin from overuse. 

I am from

Dandelions and

May Apples

The dirt backyard that

Never knew sod or seed;

I am from

The cracked sidewalk,

Dirty driveway, and

Ripped screens,

The missing storm windows

Inadequate insulation and

Leaking gas heater. 

I am from


Alcoholism, and



The ugly side of

Great Grandma DuBay, and

Granny Cackle

Nèe Ford,

Whose family believed her

To be well when she was

Mean and manipulative.  

I am from,

“You can’t do that,

(I’m the musician)!” and

“Be quiet,

Daddy has too sleep.”.


You stink like a brewery!”,

“Helinore!  Bring me a beer!”, and

“Dammit George, you horse’s ass!”

I am from the

Ubiquitous bottles of booze

And hung over men,

Verbally beaten by angry wives.

I am from tiptoeing,

Whispered orders, and




I am from

Sneaking sips of

Grandpa’s bottle when

Grandma wouldn’t see, and

Being told,

“Don’t tell your

Grandma or your

Mom, they’ll kill me for sure.”


“See!  Don’t that taste awful?

You don’t want to drink that do you?”

Followed by a

Delighted snicker at the child’s

Face from the taste of

Cheap liquor. 

I am from

“I’m a louse about religion.”


“What do you mean,

“Go to church…”?”

“If I went through those doors,

I know I’ll get zapped by lightning!!”

“Did I really say that?

I’ll go to Hell for sure now!” 

Struggling to understand

“Your Father doesn’t want to be a part

Of the family circle.

That means that

Our circle is smaller,

And harder to break.”

Before the tears truly fell,

Briskly told,

“We can’t sit around being sad,

We need to get up and make

Sure that we can

Make it without him.”

I am from







New York City, and

We have drunk


Imported Beers, and



Bacardi and

Captain Morgan Rum,

Jack Daniels and

Single Malt Unblended Scots Whisky,



Squirt, and

Grenadine, and



Knowing too much

Too soon.

I am from



Overly dramatic,


Angry and

Withdrawn drunks. 

I am from


Silent and angry;

Swallowing their rage

In slow painful nibbles,





I am from Grandma DeShaw,

Slamming cupboard doors

With an angry slash for a mouth.

I am from Grandma DuBay,

So angry with


That she sat and picked




Out of

Grandpa DuBay’s

First new suit

After the

Great Depression

Was over.

I am from

Uncle John,

Having flashbacks to

‘Nam and doing the low-crawl

Through the house

In his sleep,

Unless someone woke him,

Then he became violent

And couldn’t be stopped. 

I am from

Slaps, and

Whippings with a

Leather belt on my

Bare butt.

I am from bruises

That were hidden,



Wept into a

Balding stuffed toy, or

A pillow,

Without pillowslip,

Stained and flattened from

Of overuse and


I am from the scars that

Never show,

Wounds that still

Burn in the silence of the night.

I am from the pictures

With crooked frames

And broken glass; the

Knick-knacks with cracks and

Glue seams that

Mar their beauty and their

Inherent worth. 

Meet in my Actions and my dreams.



Written by gwenguin1

March 23, 2008 at 1:22 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Wow, Gwen, I’d say that you have experienced life in all its aspects. You’ve seen it through its brighter and seedier side. All that makes for quite an education. Thank you for sharing.



    March 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm

  2. Gwen it is like traveling through a Steinbeck novel!


    March 23, 2008 at 8:24 pm

  3. I would like to come and be with you and feel where you come from both light and dark. I agree with Dijanne. this is very Steinbeck Gwen. Extraordinary really.

    Heather Blakey

    March 23, 2008 at 10:35 pm

  4. Your contrasting imagery is so very poignant and revealing–a trip through life and living, and, as Heather says the dark and light. Fran


    March 24, 2008 at 12:07 am

  5. Such bravery to tell both sides, light and dark, good and bad. And life really is like that – all mixed together. But, as one of the dear ravens told me when I shared my own story, “You are also from strength and survival, from creativity & continuity, from truth and endurance.” Keep telling those stories that are hard to tell and hard to hear – it makes a difference.


    March 24, 2008 at 12:09 am

  6. The more I read this the better it gets Gwen. You get a Laurel Crown for this one babe!

    Heather Blakey

    March 24, 2008 at 8:20 am

  7. Heather Blakey says, “You get a Laurel Crown for this one babe!”

    It only took four years, but I did it!! I’ve wanted one of those Laurel Crown for ages, and I knew the only way to get one was to earn it. Yhank you Heather love!!


    March 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

  8. Gwen – the richness to this is amazing. We are all so many, many things, so much a collage created by our pasts and our ancestors, and yet so much ourselves, and your identity poem says all of this and so much more. Thank you for sharing this.


    March 24, 2008 at 8:21 pm

  9. Wow, Gwen, what a ride! This encompassed so much experience, I am in awe of the power of these words. You deserve the crown, Gwen!


    March 24, 2008 at 10:13 pm

  10. This is for the Laurel Crown, got my vote, too. Well said, Gwen.


    March 24, 2008 at 11:58 pm

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