by Cheyenne Zaremba

“The question of ‘fromness’ is not arbitrarily received in first encounters with strangers: it does the important work of telling social actors how they are positioned in relationship to one another.” David Terry, Global Co-Incidence: “Ontos” Poetics of the Worldwide

Where are you from?

Who? Me? I’m from Western Upstate New York, from this small town outside of the city of Rochester called Hamlin. I live about 10 minutes from Hamlin Beach State Park and Lake Ontario.

Where are you from?

Are you still asking me? I’m…from the United States. The East Coast specifically…but I don’t live anywhere near the ocean. I grew up on a cul-de-sac in a middle class predominantly white suburban neighborhood bordering on the edge of the “sticks.”

Where are you from?

Ah, well my parents met working at a restaurant together. My mom was a waitress and my dad was a line cook. He had just recently lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. I was born at Lakeside Hospital in Brockport. My grandfather likes to say that when I was born and placed in the bassinet to be weighed that I grabbed onto the side and tried to pull myself up. “You had places to be,” he says.

Where are you from?

Um…I don’t…understand?

Where are you from?

Where are you from?

Where are y—

Long ago. Longer than anyone can ever remember, can ever even begin to fathom, something happened. Out there. In here. Suddenly nowhere became everywhere and everywhere was nowhere. Matter and energy and stardust and chaos spit out in every new direction, formerly directionless, racing away from something, toward something. It’s still racing, faster than we can keep up, faster than the furthest our eyes can hope to see or our arms hope to reach, although that doesn’t stop us from trying. In that moment, I was born.

Some time after that, chaos began to form itself into organized chaos. Bits became pieces became parts became whole…or almost. Life sputtered to a start, not realizing the absolute discord that its existence would one day reap on its future enunciation, of the ten thousand stories that would be spun about this one moment. It emerged, it emerges, and I am there. Splitting, pairing, growing. Splitting myself, finding myself, growing from myself, with myself, for myself.

Then a whole bunch of shit happened. Like a whole bunch of shit. Crazy fucked up creatures in the deep and weird shit that crawled out of the sea on…legs? And big ass lizards and birds with feathers and scales and sharp teeth and eyes, eyes that could see the stars—or at least could have looked at the stars—which, by the way, were busy this whole time being born and dying and in dying being born again as something dark and awful…awfully beautiful and human. And I was in the sky with them. And I was them, just as they are me now.

The scars on the surface of my home tell of moments of terror and obliteration, fire raining from the sky, boiling seas, rising waters, barren deserts. Shit hit the fan. But then things started to cool off and different crazy fucked up creatures started to scatter across the face of my mother, held in the arms of the Goddess, held in my arms. Their lips parted, their tongues arched again their teeth and caressed the inside of their cheeks, their throats constricted and released, pushing air past the point that separated them from everything and nothing. Out of their mouths, I rolled, the first utterance of humanity, and I hung in the air between them.

Over time, I brought them together just as easily as I tore them apart, and as they tore each other apart over their togetherness I spilled across the Earth, crimson, hot, sensual, feeding the seed of their inseparable struggle. I was taken up, made black, and with the sharp tip of ingenuity, carved into their flesh, bound between their hands, taken up in their mind.

You ask me where I am from.

My fromness is beyond even myself.

I am from myself, but my self is from Nowhere, a place that one existed in that it didn’t before things finally did exist. I can no more separate myself from the stars and the salt of the sea than I can separate my heart from my lips, where it rests, so that every time my tongue arches against my teeth, caresses the inside of my cheek, throat constricting, releasing, pushing air past me to beyond me to be with me I find myself faced with a kiss I know all too well. Splitting, pairing, growing. Growing to one day die to grow into something else, growing from what I was—what I am—to what I am—what I will be.

I am not from anywhere which is to say I am from Nowhere.

Fromness if what I am.

Cheyenne Zaremba is a Master’s student at Villanova University, where she studies Communication.  When not studying, Cheyenne enjoys visiting cemeteries, cooking, doing crafts, and taking care of her 20+ plant children.  Her poetry and flash fiction have been previously published in Canvas Literary Journal, The Beacon, and Rundelania.