Walnut Hills: And That’s Our Story

Last week I spent time with some amazing people from Walnut Hills–without ever leaving my Paddock Hills home. Cincy Stories is one of our newer local arts treasures. They offer opportunities for folks to tell their stories around Cincinnati, and last summer opened a storefront in Walnut Hills. (I got to visit Shawn Braley, John William and Chris Ashwell there earlier in the month, and sure enough, a guy came in on his way home and said, “Do I have a story for you!”)

Cincy Stories also has a really cool website which not only announces their storytelling events, but includes the audio of many stories they have  collected, both in their home neighborhood of Walnut Hills and from some of their live events.

So, that’s where I come in. Last week, I spent a lovely afternoon on the chaise lounge in my office listening to Walnut Hills stories and writing down quotes that stood out to me. And then (as I am wont to do) I made a poem from those lines. I like the poem well enough, but really, you need to hear the stories.  I encourage you to check out the Street Stories section of their website and listen for yourself. (I don’t like to play favorites, but I cried when I came to the end of Cecil Evans’ story and saw it was dedicated to his memory.)

Cincy Stories has a live event coming up on February 7 at MOTR Pub.  I hope to see you there–and/or telling your own story at a future Cincy Stories event.

Here’s the poem. I hope you enjoy it!

And That’s Our Story

As a little kid I was always planting seeds.
Just to be growing things—
what a miraculous activity to be involved in.
Walnut Hills is a proud neighborhood.
We just want to add to that.
The problem is, we don’t know each other.
It’s harder to say, how can I be here for you,
how can I help lift you up?
When you have a passion for something
it makes it a lot easier to do it.
Your passion should drive you to address the issue,
not walk away from it.
Over time Walnut Hills has become a part of me.
I’m having a good time.
We have a lot of talent here.
My hope is not to see that lost.
People talk about what we don’t have—
but I like to talk about what we do have.
I know a lot about this area, and it’s looking great.
My million dollar question is,
do the people living here feel like the change is for them?
You see, there’s maybe something you can do to help.
Just listen to people, that’s all you can do.

If the earth makes everything, doesn’t it make your character?
My Dad, bless his heart, knew that environment was important to children.
It’s easier to get in trouble; it’s harder to get out.
He gave me a chance.
One of the things a lot of people don’t have growing up
is two parents pouring into them,
telling them what you can do,
what you can achieve.
You have to take a “till death do you part”
vow to your children.
It’s about how to help your children
be the best parents they can be.
My mother is the one who got me off into who I am today.
I don’t deserve it, but for whatever reason, I got it.
I just want to share it with other people.
Don’t ever let no one tell you what you can’t do.

One word I like to use is gritty.
I’m just like a little pebble—big as the world is,
I’m just a little bitty spot.
I know it’s not possible to see the end
of every road you start down.
You never know how life’s gonna go.
But you can make contact with one another
in a way to change a person’s whole life.
We all live in community together
and we all get to do life together,
and that’s what makes it home.
If you stay true to what you love,
it stays there.
You put a seed in the ground
and within that seed is all the information
it needs to grow.

Composed from Cincy Stories’ Walnut Hills Street Stories
by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel


Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memorist, teacher and editor. She was Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate from April 2-16-March 2018. Pauletta is author of six poetry collections, Plaindrome (Dos Madres Press, 2017; winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award), Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015), The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications, 2011), What I Did There (Dos Madres Press, 2011), First Person (Dos Madres Press, 2007) and Divining (WovenWord Press, 2002). Her poetry has been featured recently in journals including Talisman, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose and Still: The Journal, and anthologized in Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia; Motif: Come What May; and Motif: All the Livelong Day. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is a co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

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