Where I Grew Up

The photograph is square

with scalloped edges,

a black and white picture of

a preschool girl with chubby cheeks

and curly blonde hair—

me hugging a sapling,

probably a mesquite,

for this is West Texas.

This is where I grew up.


Through the window of the jet

I look down on L.A.,

buildings shoulder to shoulder,

crowding the path to the Pacific.

After years away, I’m returning,

feeling again the spark of excitement,

the expansive optimism

where all seems possible.

Here I was a newlywed.

Here I became a mother.

Here I became we instead of me.

This is where I grew up.


At my desk in Nashville,

an email from writer friends

summons a scene:

a snowbound Vermont campus,

a steel-cold January wind,

and warm MFA graduates,

honoring our different ages,

our disparate backgrounds,

our varied beliefs.

Here the we in me opened, expanded.

This is where I grew up.


In the studio,

I pound a fist of paint

onto wall-sized paper,

learn that art has no right, no wrong,

discover the marks of my hands,

the art of my heart,

the kindness and freedom of


Here I find myself again,

become me instead of we.

This is where I grew up.


In West Texas,

in a back yard of full-grown ash trees,

I climb the redwood fence,

pose for a photo beside my sisters,

the stone house behind us empty,

soon to be sold now that

Dad has died.

Here is where life breaks all bounds,

breaks all hearts.

This is where I grew up.


I suppose that on my own deathbed,

if I’m lucky enough to know my mind,

a bit of a smile will come—

to my lips maybe,

to my heart surely—

and I will think, yes.





is where I grow up.



Nurture peace, cultivate kindness, and carry the calm.

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Text and photos © 2024 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.