I am from a hot cup of Earl Grey (the English way), from Athenos feta cheese and Cadbury cream eggs.
I am from the yellow, then aqua, now coral house, once covered by shrubs, now shrouded with memories of summer: fresh-picked berries on potato chips.
I am from Ghost in the Graveyard on warm nights and playing Power Rangers on the porch.
I am from the white peony with ants that open up new doors: it blooms beside the first family dog.
I am from the burning bush that acts as a buffer for the neighboring wood, from a neighborhood with no fences: we knew each other well.
I am from treasure hunts at Easter and laughing oh-so-loud,
From Grandma Gerry: a best friend now long lost, but whom my dad sees reflected in me.
I am from chewed fingernails, slouching, walking and eating fast.
From “You need to be more lady-like” and “Your best is just not good enough.”
I am from Christianity, sure, but also Romanticism, Existentialism, Rationalism: Authenticity.
I’m from Appalachia, Germany, and Native American Tribes to oatmeal cake and all-you-can-eat seafood-Chinese-German-Italian buffets.
From the “I was too young to go to war then, so I had my choice of girls. I won your grandmother: the prettiest in our whole class,”
to “When I was little, your uncle and I broke Pap and Grandma’s bed while we were playing Superman: we fixed it with a stack of books,”
to “My father died when I was about ten. And then my sister had her son only months later: she was only fourteen.”
I am from the castle in St. Augustine, the last family trip to Disney before I reached adulthood, a tent flooded overnight, a puppy in Ocean City in spring, from covered bridge tours and trips to Sugar Creek.
And from so many other unnamed dreams.
Winner Round 30
From the Rubble
“We smoked ‘em!”
Scientist’s complexion was gangrenous, his eyes, pale. He swallowed. Trembling like a drunken veteran, Scientist eased himself to the ground. He vomited.
“Man up. You act like it’s the first time you’ve seen anything die.”
Scientist steadied himself.
“The calculations were off.”
“We didn’t accurately measure the bomb’s capabilities.”
“Big deal. Instead of just smoking the bitches out, we destroyed ‘em!”
Mentally, Soldier noted how proud Sergeant would be. Scientist shook his head in disbelief, pulling his hair and pacing.
“Oh, come on, you woman. They invaded our planet. It serves them right!”
“This wasn’t an ordinary settlement.”
Soldier lit a cigarette, uninterested, thinking instead of the medal certainly coming.
“This is their hive.”
“As in, where the Queen would nest.”
“So, we killed ‘er too. Mission accomplished.”
The ground began to shudder, the rubble tinkling like glassware in the middle of a quake. In the distance, she reared her head, stinger glistening in the late afternoon sun, eyes gold and alert, the movement of her wings blowing the shore into funnels.
The strange insect clicked. Bee-like-but-still-humanoid creatures responded, surfacing by the hundreds. The Queen’s stinger pulsed. She clicked. Hauntingly, the others joined.
Scientist and Soldier’s spine prickled.
Winner Round 17
This is it…
Their mecca, their hub, their heart. Only left—debris.
The spires that once rose meant to represent their chance at independence. The clerestories, their flight to heaven. The buttresses, their wings.
And now, as I kneel on the moss above the bones of my ancestors, I wonder: was it worth it?
Was it worth the struggle, the gore, the lives, the cut-throat politics and deeds? What my predecessors thought was an innocent crusade became their elimination.
And as I think these things—I wonder—can any crusade be clean?
They were fighting for their homes, their freedom, their families, their life, blood, and breath.
Bodies piled up in crowds—most are buried on the other side of the now-closed archway in secluded mass grave. Fighting was what they thought was right. Perhaps they knew more than I know today. Perhaps I should learn from them. Perhaps I already have.
…Because when I ask myself again, “Was it worth it?”, I see the phantoms of my forefathers load, aim, and fire. Eyes ready: proud.
They knew that reward can come from rebellion.
And I say to myself: “My mecca, my hub, my heart: my home.”