“Where I’m From” Poems

Students create image-driven poems based on where they are from, who they are, and who they want to become.

Assignment: Students used their personal histories and along with their poetic voice to create image-driven poems based on where they are from, who they are, and who they want to become. —Emily James, teacher

Where I’m From
by Mikayla

I am from Harman Street
from the family everyone knows,
the part of Brooklyn not everyone likes.
The warm hugs from Tio’s and Tia’s on holidays.
And the smell of Fabuloso floating through the halls of our house on a Sunday morning.
I’m from the awkward dinners when mom and dad are having one of their many problems
from rice, beans and chicken almost every day.
I’m from the L train always being packed and full of nasty smelling people.
And the smiles I never hide even though I am hurting inside.
I am from Romeo Santos played every Saturday morning”
from “Trust no one” and “not everyone is going to like you so do what makes you happy.”
From not having a stable home at the age of 5.
No lights, no warm water running down my back, no real table to sit around and speak about my chaotic day.
I am from living in a car with three others, locked doors, summer heat
creeping in and keeping this a huge secret from everyone.
From the scary streets at night, from the big groups of guys staring as I walk
I am from proving all the doubters wrong.
From realizing that you need no one in order to succeed in life.
Making mom and dad proud.
I make the best out of all the bad.
Home is Bushwick and always will be.

Where I’m From
by Akera

Where I’m from is like no other
I’m from Apt. 1H where the Grenadians are always lively
Where the oil down fills the room with an aroma that makes your stomach
do backflips
Where at least one light never works
Where your only dessert is cocoa tea
Where “If you can’t hear, you go feel” is the motto
Like I feel all the pain of Sterling Place. . .the street where I’m from
Where the weed scent has more presence than the people do
Where death isn’t frequent but when it happens the hood loves you
I’m from Crown Heights
Home of the blue, green and red lines
Where the select bus is always free
Crown Heights. . .where the real Kings and Queens reside
I’m from women letting their man hit them
I’m from immigrants who stay out of trouble to doge the system
I’m from a twisted love story
I’m from being given rocks and using the pressure being applied to create diamonds

Where I’m From
by Ninoska

I am from the Yellow, Blue, and Red Flag
From Puente A to El Mall del Sur
From divided homes,
Secrets in El Barrio,
With the sweet smell of Tango y Galak,
With the soft hugs of your uncles, who are no longer your uncles
A sister who’s soon to be a mother,
And a brother who is no longer my brother
I see my yellow, blue, and red flag, hanging over the walls in my room,
Reminding me the noises of carnival are so loud they were able to find me
That my aunts “Calmate o Te Calmo” has a mean history to it
I am from a paradise so far away the 6 hour flight feels like 12,
A paradise where the texture of my hair defines me more than my personality.
The first grandchild refusing keratin and hot irons
I let my curls think for themselves, be free.
Like my words. They define and defend me so that I am free too.

Where I’m From
by Destiny

I’m from the round belly of a women who knew she shouldn’t bring a baby into a life that was far from perfect but did anyway

Where the cold water from the pumps on a hot summer day was a water park for all the kids in East New York

From the kitchen always smelling of my grandma’s delicious Sancocho giving me a little taste of Puerto Rico that I long to see

From leaving my home in East NY running away from the hands that dare hurt my mother taking a piece of her soul with him

Where the tall project buildings show me the view of my new home Williamsburg from the 14th floor

From my mom telling me “He’ll be home soon” to stop the tears that roll down my face onto the pop-tart with candles that I wake up to every birthday morning

I’m from having to get used to seeing my dad in handcuffs that cut his flesh the same way thinking back to those times cuts deep into my heart

Where nothing calmed me down more than listening to my mother’s heartbeat as I lay on her chest

Where a house doesn’t make a home but the people that live in inside of it does

Where I’m From
by Taylor

I am from the Martin Lawrence shows late at night,
from the cold and the hot.
I am from Brooklyn, New York.
I am from a place where 8-year-olds see more dead bodies than their fathers.
I am from “A hard head makes for a soft butt.
I am from cramped apartments in Queens by JFK Airport.
I am from sleeping in the back of a van with my Dad.
I am from sweaty socks and shoes with holes inside of them.
I am from traveling out of the country just to sleep in back of the bus.
I am from the corner of my block trying to make money to feed my mom.
I am from “No I’m not hungry, let mommy eat it.”
I am from Sweat, Blood, and Tears.
I am from Lefferts Gardens where cars pull up and just shoot.
I am from not knowing all of my family because of a family feud.
I am from hot oil.
I am from Stink Breath and Cracked Lips.
I am from a broken house with half a roof and half a heart.

Where I’m From
by Zamora

I am that little brown girl
Who grew up in the projects
Born in Crown Heights
Raised in Bushwick
My roots from Trinidad
I am from that fried chicken and rice & gandulas
And those summers upstate
Temperatures above 80 degrees
All my grandmother’s grandchildren together
I am from swimming pools and free lunches
I am from laying on my bed at night smelling weed through the window.
I am from a family that’s still grieving
Trying their best to heal
I am from watching
All the boys my sister went to school with
That lived in my building
Faces plastered on the news
“Breaking news: teen dies from fatal gunshot”
I am from seeing my father go to the store or to work
And saying “Be safe”
Because I don’t know what will happen
I am from my mother saying
“Be the first in the family”
My sister the first to graduate high school
And soon college
I am from P.S. 257
Where teachers had faith in me
Where Ms. Velez called me by my nickname “Zoe”
Where they knew I would be someone
Because I am Zamora
The girl who can accomplish anything
Because I refuse to slack
I will succeed

Photo Credit: Tracy’s New York Life

Teachers & Writers Magazine is published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative as a resource for teaching the art of writing to people of all ages. The online magazine presents a wide range of ideas and approaches, as well as lively explorations of T&W’s mission to celebrate the imagination and create greater equity in and through the literary arts.

One response to ““Where I’m From” Poems”

  1. Avatar
    Diane Schneider

    I am sharing these poems with the teachers I teach. When they feel that students misbehave or disrupt class they need to know how brave these students are and that school is their safe haven. We need to be more patient and even more compassionate to understand their behavior can be triggered by things out of our control. More teachers should give these types of assignments to get to know their students on a more personal level.