“Where I’m From” Poems

The following is a “Community Poem” woven together from the responses of the Follen community to the question “Where Are YOU From?” after hearing poems from Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, DRE  Beryl Aschenberg, Youth Advisory Committee Vice-Chair Lila Sandler, and the original “Where I’m From” poem written by George Ella Lyon which inspired this project. It was an honor to be entrusted with your words, history, and identity. I hope you find this communal poem as meaningful to read as I did to gather and order.


Scroll further for individual “Where I’m From” offerings from individuals from our Congregation.


~ Beryl Aschenberg, Director of Religious Education


Where I’m From – A Follen Community Poem

I’m from rocks and pines and this wide, wide bay,

I’m from rural and suburban, cottonfields and grape arbors;

The land of Shiva and Kali,

the call to prayer 

and Om Mani Padme Om.


 I am from the shores of the duck pond, swinging from a rickety wooden swing

I am from fat bunches of violets and lily-of-the-valley picked by my father’s strong and delicate hands, delivered to numerous aunts on Mother’s Day;

From stands of mountain laurel so dense there’s no path through.

I’m from coal-smoke air and strip-mined land; humility and stubbornness; and love freely given.


I am from grandparents born in Russia and in England, who brought to this country their hopes and dreams for a better future.   

I am from a womb I shared for nine months with my brother; from a large extended family

and my own smaller family; From Eva and Evelyn, from Zacharia called Joe, Jayashree and Dilip Chatterjee and John and Beth Willis.


I am from a crowded backseat, jammed against my sisters on our way to Mass. 

Sinatra on Sundays on the a.m. frequency, my mother’s perfume filling the car.

The VW Microbus, and one of us for each day in the week.


I am from the Old Country and the Farm Country.

Food stamps and the Esplanade, cinnamon toast and MS DOS.

I am from the tasty tradition of hospitality, radiating warmth from a soapstone stove.

I am from yummy vegetable samosas and Chocolate Galaxy ice-cream in a waffle-cone,


fried apricot pies and artichokes,

blue crabs and casseroles,

maple syrup,

garden tomatoes,

and sweet Italian ice;

apple pies made with fruit from Grandma and Grandpa’s orchard, and potatoes, picked that morning to make for dinner that night.

I am from a plate full of yellow dal and basmati rice (that I will eat with my hands).


I am from jacks with Heather…from obsession with the Yankees…..

from synchronized swimming… and the songs of my childhood. 

I’m from the Hobbit and the Pirates of Penzance, and so many more choruses and plays; 

the wicked stepmother, and the knowing whispers. 

I am from the tongue tied and culturally awkward.


I am book club strong with back yard bootcamp. 

My parents’ passion for democracy & equal rights. 

My mother’s admonitions to “Think for yourself.”


I am from morning cuddles, and pick-up baseball before dinner,

From belly-aching laughter hearing Daddy’s jokes,

And from the comforting touch of Mama’s fingers through my hair;

I am from elephant, little seal, and molee, who make me happy, happy, happy

From hiking, mountains, and imagination.


I’m from all the times I’ve laughed with and hugged you.

I am from unconditional love and support, tragedy and joy.  

And from “Have fun, choose to be kind, and don’t lose your magic”


I am from a tradition of tolerance and acceptance

that I have passed on to my daughter, and am lucky enough

 to have witnessed in her actions.

I’m from places I haven’t been yet; the stuff of stars.

The hearts of my dearest friends; the joy of true love.


And you! Now I am from Follen, too.




The following are full “Where I’m From” Poem submissions from members of the Follen Congregation. Thank you all for sharing these lovely, personal reflections!



Where I’m From, 

by Betsy Leutz


I am from Broadway,

from buses and trains and rumbling traffic


I am from the seaside;  From vast sandiness to salty wind gusts tasting on my tongue like sea itself.

I am from Eva and Evelyn, from Rose and Pearl, a Louis and a Hirsch, from Seigmund and Henry, from Zacharia called Joe and Allan.


All gone but given life in Simon, James, Edward, in young Joe and Drew, Henry and Elliott, and in Will.




Where I’m From,

 by Margaret Micholet


I’m from rocks and pines and this wide, wide bay,

From eagles and osprey — raucous crows,

From seals chasing frantic fish,

From deer that come at dawn. 


I’m from twisted roots and winding trails,

From my dog who matches my every step.

I’m from Ellsworth schist and Sedgwick granite,

From flowers wild and blowing, possessing the fields,

From moss in silent woods.


I’m from clearing the gully and stacking firewood,

From going to the dump with a truckload of brush,

From making sure animals don’t get to the lobster shells,

From painting the deck.


I’m from looking and listening,

From feeling and smelling the ocean wind —

I’m from remembering.

I’m from this place that I shared once but never again.



Where I’m From, 

by Lex Johnson


I am from Divine Source, our eternal Mother and Father. 

I am also from my Mom – 

a yankee New Englander from the Himalayas 

And from my Dad – 

an upper west side refugee from Jiangxi Province. 


I am from the land of Shiva and Kali,

the call to prayer, and

Om Mani Padme Om. 


I am from the bank of the Gan River

flowing northward toward the Yangtze. 

And I am from this land of granite and tobacco,

the eastern doorway of Turtle Island. 


I am from a plate full of yellow dal and basmati rice

(that I will eat with my hands). 

I am from the franjapani tree

whose soft limbs I climbed as if they were my own. 


I am from the tongue tied and culturally awkward, 

from amphibians who swim a little differently than the fish 

and run a whole lot slower than the mammals. 


I’m from the click clack of an airport terminal, 

from the steep curve of Mullingar Hill all the way over to Jabarkhet,

from Nanchang and the rice paddy fields of Xiaoping Village, 

the grief of Demeter for her lost Persephone. 


I’m from alaripu and jatiswaram, 

from luscious spirals on a wooden dance floor, 

hanging out just the five-of-us plus Tess in our living room, 

from walking and talking my way around Fresh Pond

like two baby turtles

hatching beside the water. 


Under my bed was a suitcase ready for the next adventure, 

a box to carry Home with me 

whenever The Wheel of Life started to turn. 


What about you? 

Where are you from? 

I am from my Self—no suitcase needed 

And I am from Kyle 

We co-parented into adulthood 

with inhale and exhale as our North Star. 


I’m from paradox. 

Same as you. 

Different than you. 

Not the same as you. 

No different from you. 

I’d love to meet you there… ” 



Where I’m From, 

by Henrietta Yelle


I am from the land of potatoes and high-bush blueberries, 

from maple syrup and garden tomatoes

I am from steamers, little necks, and quahog fritters


I am from fat bunches of violets and lily-of-the-valley picked by my father’s strong and delicate hands, delivered to numerous aunts on Mother’s Day


I am from a long line of only children and from thirteen siblings around one table, from joie de vivre and farmers with a tendency to “the blues”


I am from one-room schoolhouses where mother and grandmother brought extra lunch and firewood and brought home children in need of a warm hug and a hot bath


I am from between you and me, lie not lay, broad A’s and dropped R’s

I am from the earth, from the land, from the sea, from the forest, from the sky

I am from the stuff of stars



Where I’m From, 

by Wilma Ronco


I’m from rural and suburban

I’m from large extended family

and my own smaller family

I’m from my growing family of 

stepchildren and grandchildren.


I’m from love.


Where I’m From, 

by Jeanne Marie Hobbie


I’m from the mountains & peaks of New Hampshire

The trees of Massachusetts

The waves of the Atlantic Ocean


I’m from the songs of my childhood & maturity

The hearts of my dearest friends

the joy of true love


And i’m from the arms of my grandmother

The sound of her singing  – her joy for life

The gentleness of my father

His terrible puns , his Renaissance interests

 &  respect for all people – and his love for me


My parents’ passion for democracy & equal rights 

My mother’s fierce organizing skills (six children in 9 years)

Her admonitions to think for ourselves,

And our own fierce battles; and , finally -the peace &  love  of  the  last 20 years


I’m from the hearts of our childhood dogs; and our own two beloved hounds

and I’m from The Hobbit (Ori, at your service)  – and the Pirates of Penzance! (3 x) and so many more choruses and plays .the joy of singing and dancing and acting


My own loud rowdy contentious  (and dear)  natal family


And all of  the children I’ve ever worked with ;  and  nieces and nephews, and their children

And, especially,  our own daughter; and my own, dearest, husband


And you!  Now,  I am from Follen too


Where I’m From,

By Lila Sandler


I’m from fights over fruit snacks,

from squabbles for the “good” chair and always having my stoll on backwards


I’m from questions

about anything from Dolphin Love to land races across Eurasia

from weekly highs and lows and slang terms for elbows


I’m from “Only Time” by Enya, 

setting floating lanterns free and dreading seeing tissues in the pews


I’m from unconditional love, 

be it in the form of hugs or meat water


I’m from thinking of the memories I’m missing now

from wanting them back, 

all the while, knowing I’m being cinnamon bun hugged in spirit

I’m from wishing it wasn’t just in spirit


Where I’m From, 

By Beryl Aschenberg, DRE


I’m from pink-flowered girl-clothes, distinct from the brown and blue solids of the brothers. 


I’m from scratched legs and stray cats,

Canadian pride, wide open ravines, Anne of Green Gables, and wild roses you can smell from 5 feet away.


I am from the next house and the last one; the new school, and the “new girl” whispers coupled with sidelong stares; I am from my mothers’ and grandmothers’ letters, signed with “so much love” mailed from so far away. I’m from potato latkes with sugar, and the sound of Hebrew and Yiddish tickling the inside of my ears.


In another life,

I am from palm trees and salted air, soft baby skin, trusting eyes, and giggles


And in yet another, 

I am from proud graduations, “Gathered Here”, and “Wuv- Twoo Wuv… is what bwings us togethah too-day.”


I am from new understandings of home, the antics of grandkids, 

And the rage and beauty of this world.