You Ask Me Who I Am, and I Wish I Could Explain

by Ethan Holmes

I’ve been asked to describe the person that I am,

how I came to faith and what’s led to all that’s come to pass,

but in my attempts upon this task, I find that what I can contrive

is nothing more than a list of things: Ethan is nice,

Ethan is hard-working, or he thinks good thoughts,

but those are things that I’ve been taught, so

following that thinking, I’ve become “me”

through lessons and preaching, but

that isn’t at all how we talk.

                                          I observe,

that in my life, at times, these things I claim

to make up me have not been mine—

that my ‘self,’ this person that I say ‘I am,’

has looked very much like something other

or someone else, so, though I know I’ve lived and felt

like there is someone—a gift to me—

that in my depths has lived and dwelt,

recently, my proclivity is toward the decline of identity

or, otherwise, what I call my           ‘self.’





I,      my ‘self,’     is me.

I am me, separately from the rest of humanity—

I possess, though may not have yet become,

a ‘self’ which is my own, independent of this or that.

There is one that is me and mine,

and I’ve been that person all this time,

                                     just not purely,

like life is just a matter

of picking the grain from the chaff.

                                          It sounds


Truly, it must be nice,

that person, to own and know,

because, to me, that person shown

through repetitions taken twenty and twice,

is not my own. What I see is that me

“Me,”     as much     as me     is my own—

is misery.


Separately, I exist, yes,

but together we persist,

for I am never me alone.


And so I’ve heard it, thus, condoned,

that, at best, everything I consider me

all that’s met in my core to make this man

I implore you see—is not free, but nothing more

than a set of romantic protractions of my habits and reactions

to the place wherein I’m born in which I grow.

And, though that sounds conceivable—

even if on one level it isn’t flawed—believable and true 

is what separates evil from me and you

or what differentiates the Devil’s rhetoric

from that of GOD.

              So, this has to be clear,

because paramount among my fears

is that when you ask me who I am,

the only way I’ll think to explain

is by saying I write poems for Trinity

and my friends think I’m a little strange,

and if this is all that I can do to explain myself to all of you,

and I, my ‘self’ (or what I’m calling me)

cannot be recognized as true outside the context of my community—

                                                                  if this is correct—

that then means, in some respect, that if I elect

to be just by myself then I deny my true aspect,

and by being by myself,

I am no longer being. . . .


                                   my ‘self.’


And that doesn’t make any sense at all,

because what I call ‘myself,’ then

would be yours.


So, when you ask me who I am,

you should be able to explain.


But I know that, that’s deranged,

for, if I am just what I’m shaped to be

and I say that me is mine,


then I could shape myself in my hands

and take that as a sign


that anything I should dream to be

will come in time—with effort and

a clear conception of the life that’s lived

by this man I want to be—and then,

                                  I assume,

I would discover (if not make) what is me.


So, if I erase the limits of what my ‘self’ can be

(remember this boils down to perspective and perception)

then I will be at liberty to live by my right to free-election,

and my life will be subject only to my own corrections,

and then I’ll have no reason to give a damn what any of you think,

because shame is just a religious tool, so I would be a fool

to shrink from what I know I can become, for it is I

I am the only one at liberty to know the answer

to this question of who this person is that ‘I am.’


don’t ask me who that is,

because if I’m forced to explain,

I’ll only be able to say

that me is who I choose to be,

but if I can be anything at all

then I am nothing in particular

and then, truly, my ‘self’ is lost,

but I know deep down this view is false,

because though, through life

I’ve lived with fault and fluctuation—

like a child you would not recognize—

there is someone behind these eyes

that does not change; I can’t deny-


GOD reminds me every day

that there is someone—a gift to me—

by reflected face and flesh, that I am me

and that me was made deliberately;

I can’t escape that

no matter how I try.


Though I am privileged

to exist, created in GOD’s image,

I have no idea what GOD looks like.

How does that help me understand?


We say he’s limitless and undefinable.

When Moses asks, He says “I am that I am.”

Later Pilate says GOD is King of Jews,

He tells him just because “you say so”

that doesn’t make it true.


He seems pretty averse to labels,

so, I figure, if this GOD created me

then I can whine and complain –

I can make demands –

I can go to theologians;

they can explain His command,

but, by giving definition,

I impoverish what seems like truth

that asking the question is what’s important,

giving answers has little use.


I’ve asked Him who I am plenty of times,

and every instance He provides an answer

all that He says is:


                           “You’re mine.”


So, you asked me who I am.

This is the best I can explain.



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