The Road Away From Rome

I am from The Empire State,

Western ideals made incarnate.

Paragon of the American Dream,

Epicenter of celebrated empire

A place where appearances are everything,

and everything is gold

or gilded.

 

I am from a place of contradiction,

there is no inhibition in the streets, just let it out.

There are so many of us, after all,

our lives are public

 

I am from a place where suffering is hidden.

Tucked away,

in ideal suburban homes,

neat little rows of conformity.

Where behind every picket fence,

there is a void.

An tinge to consumerism,

an emptiness where things should be most full.

 

I am from a place of invisible lines.

Ghettos,

always out of sight.

Oppression so invisible,

that it’s obvious.

 

I am from a place famous for hard streets and harder faces.

A place with lives on top of lives.

Clawing our way up,

relishing in the savagery.

A place with no shortage of neighbors.

Sometimes people lay dead for days in their apartments,

nobody notices.

 

Who can believe that the youth could struggle here?

Drug addiction? Violent crime? Not in our community.

They come from such good families.

How could anyone take suburban kids seriously?

They are spoiled,

they have everything.

 

I am from filling the void.

I am from hostility and neglect.

I am from the celebration,

reverence of bad intentions.

I am from overcoming.

I am from opting out,

making my own way.

How you doin’?

Photo credit- Lengele Photography, New York City link

Photo credit- Adam Moss, Oceanside Station link

We Are All From Somewhere

 

I am from a family of brothers and sisters.

Brothers and sisters who walk on all fours,

who are always happy to see you,

and who occasionally eat your Christmas presents—red wrapping paper and all.

 

I am from the gritty green cement of a tennis court:

rough to the touch, firm and unforgiving.

Encased by three painted white lines

and a woven black net stretched tight by two round net-posts.

 

 

I am from a father who has never been arrested,

but has been to jail more times than I can count.

From a blonde, blue-eyed mother

who is more comfortable using a chainsaw than wearing makeup. Continue reading “We Are All From Somewhere”

Where To Go From Here

I am from sunshine, sunscreen and the ocean breeze

I am from freeways, tree-lined streets and houses as far as the eye can see

I am from four-hour road trips and classic rock music

I am from bar-b-ques and sports on the weekend

I am from surprise trips to Disneyland and dinner at the table

Disneyland sign, Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, 1974

I am from the land of urban sprawl

The land of keeping up with appearances and the Joneses

I am from the land of redlining, zoning and pretty parks

I am from the land of years-long drought and the greenest grass you will ever see

I am from the land of track homes, convenience and idyllic suburbia

1961 Travel Ad, Southern California Tourism, Vintage Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beach

 

I am from two homes and split holidays

I am from two parents with a high-school diploma

I am from struggling to get through high school

I am from the best support system

I am from learning to enjoy the simple things in life, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and finally figuring it out

I am from learning that education is everything

I am from needing to be and do more

And I am a first-generation college graduate who is going places

I’m Working On It

I am from a constant question and a too-honest answer.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Nothing.”

 

 

I am from “you could do anything you want.”

Could I?

I could do anything, as long as it’s pointless. Anything I want, except I’ve never wanted.

 

 

I am from encouragement and expectation to do well in school, easily met.

Why?

To go to college.

Why?

To get a good job.

Why?

To support a family and live comfortably.

Why?

To have a happy life.

Why?

I need a better reason. A real reason. Why does no one seem to have one, or even to ask? What makes anyone else think living is worthwhile, and why can’t they tell me about it?

 

 

I am from stories of far-away places and people that have long turned to dust and been forgotten. Some were real, some were imagined. None of them were relevant. All of them were more interesting and more true than what I saw around me: this world, these people, myself.

Are there even any stories worth telling, here? Does anyone even remember what truth is?

 

 

I am from old libraries and older books, written long before the world was as it is.

Maybe not everything is dust; maybe someone remembers.

There are no references to the American dream here; there are no references to America. These are far older than that. They speak about important things.

For once.

 

 

I am from academia.

I could write you a thesis on the relational ontology of human persons. “ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν.”1

It would include sections on marriage, friendship, community. It would have hundreds of footnotes, all meticulously done by hand, Chicago style.

None of them would reference personal experience.

 

 

I am from emptiness: empty world, empty life, empty self. But I have to change.

θέωσις.

“αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐνηνθρώπησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς θεοποιηθῶμεν.”2

I was reminded. Theology is in the end something you have to live, with others. That’s what God did.

Κύριε, ἐλέησον.

περιχώρησις
Rublev’s Trinity

1Gen. 1:26 LXX

2Athanasius, Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione, ed. and trans. Robert W. Thompson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 268.

Featured Image: Leuven University Library, by JeroenCorthout at Wikimedia Commons

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