by Sarah I. Gonzalez

Humid San Gabriel mornings,
And chilled suburban evenings,
Both ring with the same sounds.
Frying eggs sing a song
While the coffee boils on,
Silence filled with music all around.

She cooks and hums “Obladi Oblada,”*
Carrying a pan of eggs with salsa on top.
His fork reaches out, ready to serve himself.
I sit by and watch it all,
The room once big, now small,
A dragon that hoards memories as wealth.

A piece of suburban land,
Neither glamorous nor grand,
No more than is needed, but less than is wanted,
Yet bigger than you could ever believe;
A wilderness where I was Jane, swinging from the tree
Father planted, I cried when He chopped it.

In this square of well-worked terrain
Mother plants plumerias she loves to maintain
And father tends abuela’s lemon tree,
The one he’ll use in the summer—
When hell’s breeze becomes the weather—
To make Arctic lemonade for me.

This little backyard served many purposes,
Patio, garden, bicycle track; cement with well-worn surfaces
Served as slip ‘n slides and b-ball courts. But not just for me,
The elders held it before my birth,
Now it’s shared between fourth and first,
This land holds four children’s memories.

The size of this place is an optical illusion,
So small, hardly livable, yet full of chaotic confusion
Because it holds four entire worlds.
Now that the youngest is grown,
Now that the elders left home,
It is making room for a new little girl.

Maybe for her the orange trees will be goal posts,
The grass a carpet to absorb falls that hurt the most.
Perhaps rooms where we’d listen to “The Eminem Show”
And imagine living like a king someday*
Will grow still as the melodies fade away
To make room for new music, putting to rest songs so old.

I thought this world would stretch thin
Now that a new story’s about to begin,
Now that a niece builds a new world next to mine.
Though this land never grows or changes its shape,
It holds a thousand worlds, a thousand mistakes,
A thousand stories and will never erase a single line.

In this corner of the planet
I have carved my name in granite,
Never to be washed away or stand alone.
Before my name stands three more,
And following mine, another is scored,
This corner of the planet is four—five kinds of home.

IMAGE: “San Gabriel River, Pico Rivera, California” by Nare Mnatsakanyan.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Where I was Jane” is a poem I wrote for a poetry workshop I took at my school. We were told to write a Place Poem and my original idea was to write about standing beside my mother and how I always feel safe beside her. But as I started writing, I found myself writing about all the different rooms in my home that my mother and I have talked in, or where she read to me or played games, and I started writing more about home than my mother. It dawned on me that, when I look out at my backyard and see the flowers my mother planted, I remember the day she knelt down to work the dirt to plant them, I remember running about the grass and her splashing me with water from the hose in the summer — but my brothers have completely different memories. They remember playing basketball with my father, or learning to ride a bike or wrestling with each other on the grass. It occurred to me that one place can hold a thousand memories and lives, and that just because this house is where I learned to walk and where I asked a brother to read to me from a Harry Potter book and took it away because he wasn’t reading the names right, those won’t be the memories my niece has when she gets older. My niece, who visits often and for days at a time, will remember hearing me play piano, or seeing me read while she and my mother play in the living room. She will remember hearing my favorite British quiz show when she first walks in the door; my home will start to hold all of her memories too. When this poem began, it was called “Five Kinds of Home,” but my poetry teacher read it and said that she thought “Where I Was Jane” was a much better title because it sums up what I am trying to say in my poem. This house I grew up in, it’s “Where I Was Jane” and climbed trees and chased my dog around the backyard; but it’s also where my brothers were rappers, basketball stars, and Philharmonic performers; it’s where my niece will be her favorite TV character or her favorite superhero; it’s where we all get to pretend to be whoever we want for a little while. ¶ This poem also includes three lines that are borrowed from songs. I’ve denoted these lines with an asterisk. In line 7 of my poem, I borrowed the phrase “Obladi Oblada” from The Beatles’ song of the same title. In line 38, I borrowed the title of Eminem’s album “The Eminem Show,” and in line 39 a line from Pierce the Veil’s song “King for a Day,” which is typed in italics. I do not claim rights to any of these borrowed lines and would like to cite them however possible so that it does not come across as plagiarism.

IMAGE: “Twilight Wonder” by Mountain Dreams. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah I. Gonzalez grew up in Pico Rivera, California, just on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She has been writing poems, short stories and lyrics since the age of 11, and has set her sights on becoming a lyricist and published poet. She is currently studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing at Whittier College in California. She grew up in a household that never stopped playing music — from the moment she was born, her parents sang to her, and she was surrounded by the music her brothers played and listened to. When she grew older, she took piano lessons and often insists that growing up hearing so much music has immensely influenced her writing. She will often base her lyrical style on a new artist she stumbles upon, and finds that some of her best ideas for her own writings come to her while she’s playing the piano. She loves reading and often jokes that she will spend any money she gets on new books rather than necessities. She insists that her love for writing comes from so much reading as well as the books and myths her mother would read to her before bed as a child. If she isn’t listening to music and studying how the artists write their lyrics, she can be found curled up with a book, writing her own verses, or sitting at her piano practicing the newest piece of sheet music she’s bought. In her opinion, surrounding herself with so much literature and music has helped her to grow as a writer; she believes writing and music aren’t that different, both require focus, passion, and appreciation for what can be accomplished by sound.