source unknown. if you know the source please let me know.
this is a good lesson.

Poem in Two Voices: Ancestral Roots

Ending Poem

Rosario Morales
Aurora Levins Morales

I am what I am.
  A child of the Americas.
A light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean.
  A child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a
I am Puerto Rican. I am U.S. American.
  I am New York Manhattan and the Bronx.
A mountain-born, country-bred, homegrown jibara child,
  up from the shtetl, a California Puerto Rican Jew
A product of the New York ghettos I have never known.
  I am an immigrant
and the daughter and granddaughter of many immigrants.
  We didn't know our forbears' names with a certainty.
They aren't written anywhere.
  First names only or mija, negra, ne, honey, sugar, dear

I come from the dirt where the cane was grown.
  My people didn't go to dinner parties. They weren't
I am caribena, island grown.
  Spanish is in my flesh, ripples from my tongue, lodges
 in my hips,
the language of garlic and mangoes.
  Boricua. As Boricuas come from the isle of Manhattan.
I am of latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my
  I speak from that body. Just brown and pink and full of
 drums inside.

I am not African.
  Africa waters the roots of my tree, but I cannot return.

I am not Taina.
  I am a late leaf of that ancient tree,
and my roots reach into the soil of two Americas.
  Taino is in me, but there is no way back.

I am not European, though I have dreamt of those cities.
  Each plate is different.
wood, clay, papier mache, metals basketry, a leaf, a
 coconut shell.
  Europe lives in me but I have no home there.

The table has a cloth woven by one, dyed by another,
  embroidered by another still.
I am a child of many mothers.
  They have kept it all going.

All the civilizations erected on their backs.
  All the dinner parties given with their labor.

We are new.
  They gave us life, kept us going,
brought us to where we are.
  Born at a crossroads.
Come, lay that dishcloth down. Eat, dear, eat.

  History made us.
We will not eat ourselves up inside anymore.

  And we are whole.

  * * *

 Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales, mother and daughter, wrote
"Ending Poem" about who they are and their ancestors' contributions to
their lives. The poets feel that their ancestors' ways of life are part
of them, but each poet believes she is also a new and unique individual.

 After reading "Ending Poem" aloud, write a poem based on
"Ending Poem." In addition to writing about your own experiences, you
will write in your mother's, father's, or other older relative's voice
about his or her experiences. You may also write the poem
collaboratively with your relative. If you write the poems yourself, you
may wish to interview a relative to obtain the necessary information.


1. Provide biographical information about
 yourself and one of your parents or
 older relatives. Begin your poem with
 the line "I am what I am." This is your
 line. Continue to write lines alternatively
 with your voice and the voice of your
 relative. In your voice, tell about your
 background; in your relative's voice, tell
 about his or her background. The facts
 you choose to write about may include
 place of origin, socioeconomic back-
 ground, languages spoken and heard as
 a child, and basic values. Provide
 details that demonstrate these facts.

2. Find traits you and your ancestors share.
 Continue this part of the poem in one or
 both voices. Go back as many genera-
 tions as you wish: hundreds or years or
 one or two generations.  Specify the
 continent, country, city, or state your
 ancestors were from, and describe
 aspects of your ancestors' lives that are
 part of you, but are not all of you. If you
 can, describe traits you have internal-
 ized from two or three generations of
 your family.


 Russia is in me. (Asia, too?)
 The towns, the cities, the jammed streets, the
  domed synagogues.
 But I am not Russia.

 I am not New York City.
 The color, the variety, my family, those are
  in me,
 but they are not all of me.

 You may already know about features
 of your distant ancestors' places of
 origin and ways of like that are part of
 you. If you do not, ask your parents
 and older relatives. Another important
 source of information is the library.
 (I have National Geographic, also.)
 Look up information about the areas in
 which your ancestors lived, and find
 characteristics of those places that
 resonate in you.

Part 3 - Ending section
 You may begin this section with "I am
 new" or "I move on." Describe how you
 are entering new territory or how you
 are different from your ancestors.


Practice reading your poem with your relative or with another person
taking your relative's part, and then read your poem for the class with
the other person. Extra credit will be given for an audio or video tape
of you and your relative reading the poem.

source unknown.