So Where Are You From?
Look, I know you're friendly and curious.
Even when my president's name was Bush
no Scot ever blamed me for the sins
of my motherland.
But you have to understand –
ten years I've been asked this selfsame question
and it's starting to wear a touch thin.
First, I must congratulate you on getting it right.
You didn't ask 'what part of the states are you from?'
(There are people known as Canadians.
Never assume we're the same, or you may come to grief.
Most of them have a good sense of humour, but the others,
well...you won't forget the meaning of a maple leaf.)
When you ask that question, I'll smile and answer 'Chicago'.
I haven't lived there in years
but it's a good place to claim
primarily because, at the very least, you recognise the name.
I don't need to start explaining Tennessee
or drawing maps of Puget Sound.
Then you will cheerfully tell me
that you visited Chicago as part of a five-state tour
or you changed planes at O'Hare,
or your brother lives there,
or you once saw ER on C4
and if you have a wee bit of extra knowledge
you'll tell me, with glee,
you've heard it's called the Windy City!
(You say this without irony
in a country where the rain blows horizontally.)
The best place to ask me this question
is at a party, or a literary salon,
or if we meet in the street by chance –
not in the back of an ambulance.
I appreciate your personal interest in me
but some days I get tired of this routine,
of being reminded that a decade of muddy summers
will never be sufficient to make me a native.
I think I need to get more creative.
The next time someone asks
'so where are you from?'
I may just answer:
And that's them told.
From Lipstick Is Always A Plus (Stewed Rhubarb Press, 2012)
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