July 17, 2004

After I wrote last post, I went out for a run.
And as I ran I thought more about the "I am a child of ___" way of thinking that had bothered me in the Pacific Places, Pacific Histories collection (and which C had felt might be unfair).
I began by wondering if I was a child of Chillicothe (the only place I could consider myself a child of; so far I have been an immigrant to Annandale, Buffalo, Manhattan, Albany, Honolulu, Brooklyn, and Oakland...). And I thought in some ways that I was. I do feel that I am an Ohio poet when I have to put place before poet. And I like it a lot when the state sees me as an Ohio poet (and reviews my books in their state library newsletter, etc.). But I just went home for a weekend and just happened to attend high school reunion and really felt strongly the ways in which I am not really a child of Chillicothe anymore (high school football player, now chubby, reminded me when he introduced himself to me as another high school football player and I believed he was the other person; I did not have detailed local knowledge anymore). And I've been trying to write this essay on Chillicothe and the prison industrial complex for years and failing because I feel nervous about writing about Chillicothe when I'm not there anymore.
But then I thought well there are all these ways that thinking you are a child of a place can be so positive. It can be the beginning of an environmental and political consciousness for the place. I can be reformatory. It can allow someone from elsewhere to feel that the place matters and deserves protection. It doesn't have to be just a brag. (Although I will not buy a meekness or a humbleness to the word "child" argument; the word makes a heavy biological claim.) What matters is what you do with the claim. Anyone who has taught at UH for years has done something with the claim.
Perhaps if I thought more about how I was a child of Chillicothe I might do more work to make it less environmentally fucked up.
So then I decided I was wrong and from now on whenever anyone says they are the child of a place I will say "awright!" 
(And I'll hold off my mixed reservations about the peace corps for some other time.)

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