Monday, September 12th, 2016

1. Remember where you came from: land and people.

South Buffalo, New York. April 1981.

There are so many places and people we have all come from. Moments of welcome. Of feasts and farewells. I didn’t start in this lifetime. I come from many people. Some of whom I know. Others who I don’t and never will, but their blood runs in mine. Their memories and ideas and choices. Their discoveries and hardships, their ways and who they loved and where they lived – formed me and inform me, usually without me having any knowing as such.

We each arrive to a place, a passport, a culture, a language, and a set of circumstances that were whirling before our birth and now welcome us into the mix. The two people that came together to make us were once children themselves. Maybe they planned on or didn’t plan on being parents. Either way, here they are looking down at parts of themselves, reworked into a new being. A new life. An extension of their own.

To think that my life started so, so long ago as part of so many people all over the world coming together into my two parents astounds me: the exponential quality both understood and totally unfathomable, the amount of gratitude and praise and grief and care and responsibility… it takes my problems and wishes and doubts and relationships into part of a long stride while also having such an impact in every direction on those yet to come.

My grandmother, with her husband, created four children. Those four children, along with their partners, created eighteen grandchildren. By the time my grandmother passed away, those children grew up, found love, and created eleven more people. Now there are at least double that plus great, great. Great. That’s a lot of people! Without my grandmother and grandfather being together, to date, fifty-something people would have never existed.

My mom and dad and both of their parents were all from Buffalo. Snow and football and all. My parents met in a bar in South Buffalo called O’Malley’s, where my dad worked. They had their first date on the fourth of July at a picnic near Buffalo and became husband and wife a few years later and settled down in Buffalo.

I arrived three weeks later than I was expected to: a new native of Buffalo.

Like my mom’s name, Dawn, I was named for new beginnings. A name that also means barn dances. Spelled like the Hindu goddess but with a line over the A to make it sound long. Kāli.

My tree stretches with great grandparent seeds from Ireland and Ukraine and Germany, and at times if I listen carefully, I can feel the food and music and countrysides of those places running through my veins too, but closer to the surface is my Buffalo: streets and eats and all four seasons. I learned from early on that Buffalo isn’t a place that one leaves or can leave behind. Buffalo is a way of life: roots and baggage, weight and wings, an anchor, a heartbeat.

I grew up hearing sentiments that echoed, “Blood is thicker than water” and “All is fair in love and war.” I don’t believe in these sayings. I quickly learned about those who worked hard to raise me no matter what and that there is hunger for justice deeply embedded within each of us. I want to live by the truth, choosing how to speak my identity and lineage and testify how it’s not war but love that provides:

I am Kāli Quinn
Daughter of Thom and Dawn
Raised alongside Evan
By a dog named Beckett
With Ukrainian Eggs from the Broadway Market
And Irish Dancing of Southern Buffalo
Introduced by second-generation American grandparents
Of the Old First Ward
A Papa on one side who dyed his beard green on St. Patrick’s Day
A Grandma on the other who made pierogi and potato pancakes
And fed by countless teachers and seeds of creativity.

Held in the palm of the great Lake Erie
A place originally inhabited by the Attawandaron
And then blessed by the Seneca
Keepers of the Western Door
And one of the five tribes of the Iroquois People
Called River of Horses by the French
And occupied by the British at Fort Niagara
Years later the conclusion of the Erie Canal
And terminus of the Underground Railroad
City of Lackawanna Steel
And Good Neighbors shoveling snow.
Raised on values of love, curiosity, compassion and connection

I am Kāli Quinn
Child of the Universe
Roaming the earth
Since Earthday 1981.​

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Where and whom do you come from? How does that connect to where you are now?

Write the poetry of you in any way you’d like.