Elizabeth Tannen: Origin Story
Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Origin Story


The sounds on the floor

when you were born

smelled like grease and


grief but you only heard

shine and girl. In the next

room a woman with white


hair and pink nails

remembered how she

slept in Poland


when it was called Russia.

Your own grandmother stood

in a Manhattan kitchen and ate


one walnut at a time.

A voice inscribed itself

in ancient tongues, between


crevices of spoken crumbs—

keep crawling, it commanded

but you heard don’t go down.

Elizabeth Tannen is a multi-genre writer, editor, teacher, anti-racism facilitator, organizer and activist. She was raised in Brooklyn, New York and have lived for the last five years in south Minneapolis. Elizabeth's essays, stories and poems have appeared in places like NPRSalonThe RumpusThe Morning News, Front Porch, Copper Nickel and Southern Humanities Review.  In 2018, her poetry manuscript, Notes on Distance, was one of five finalists for Milkweed Editions Lindquist & Vennum Prize.