Transracial Adoption from one black girl’s perspective


Longing: First Movement

in the shadow of this empty birth certificate
I live as (un) blank slate of memory
longing is a pain knowing can cure,
desire for your hand to cover mine

sweet jane
sweet sweet jane doe

something about ghosts living between us
people want to disregard,
silence the voices in their heads
as if they never were

Anyone who’s ever split apart

this grief can make you forget what they told you
try hard to remember the words
feel them on your tongue
like the name your mother says she picked for you

Anyone who’s ever had a dream

I will not cast out my name
even for you, who wish me away
who embroil me in your secrets
entice me to fall into your denial of my body

Anyone who’s ever played a part

this cannot be cured by unknowing
the empty space above your head in family photos
the void position next to you on the family wall
my face in the back of your mind, our fathers obituary

Anyone who’s ever been lonely

I carve my name over and over into my arm
tattooed and cut, mark red and blue
like the cord that ties us together
the death that rips our flesh

Anyone who’s ever split apart

sweet jane
sweet sweet jane doe

Oct 6, 7 & 8 – 8pm Berkeley, CA

Please come!!! BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

also – are you on my email list? Read my most recent update!

“Memory Sucks” by Beau Sia

so what you sayin is

to the Japanese man
at the bar who asked me
if I knew that Filipinos
are the Black people
of Asia

Im a nigger nigger?


VONA 2011

2011 is a year of completion for me. I plan to finish the multiple projects I’m working on. For Ungrateful Daughter, I will have a workshop / talkback show in October and then have finished and it up for my first full run at the beginning of 2012, I want my first poetry manuscript to be finished as well and of course, my dissertation. Its a year of closures for me.

This week I’m attending VONA for a week focusing on working out the poetry collection I’ve been working on for ever. Last year I attended VONA in the lovely and powerful Ruth Foreman’s poetry workshop. I fell completely in love with the VONA community, and with the energy of being in workshop space with other writers of color (and not being in a teacher role!). What I left with were two things (1) the (re) reminder of something I know and have known since I was very young, that I am a writer. I forget sometimes, because I’m a teacher, a leader, an activist, a scholar, a performer, and all the zillion other things I do, but the reason I am ANY of those things is because I was a writer first. Because my writing self is the biggest part about me that is, and more than that is also the me that I claim. and (2) that what I do as a writer, a black girl black woman, mixed girl mixed woman writer — means something and it means something important. I left last year’s week at VONA with a huge sense of validation. I work my ass off. I deserve everything I want. I am worthy of love and connection. Since I actually work to create the life I want, both in my activist, academic and my creative writing work, writing new worlds, I deserve the life I want as a writer and artist! It is not only important for me, to claim what I am worth and what I deserve as a human searching for connection, love and joy, but it is important for me to claim all of these spaces for other little black girls and other black filipina mixed up transracial adoptee women who cannot speak, are not allowed to speak or are frozen in fear. The poetry I write is important. The voice I have means something. Its not just navel gazing or therapy. thats horseshit. I’m changing worlds here.

This year, I’m blessed to be in Willie Perdomo’s “Building the Poetry Collection” section. I have this chapbook I’ve been working on for years and years, its been named like 3 different names and I’m looking forward to how this will push me to consider it as a whole collection, not just poems I put together. I look forward to it being published and me sharing it with you when I’m on the road with Ungrateful Daughter. So far in the workshop, its answered some great questions around the diversity of the collection, reconciling multiple poetic voices and consistency. I’m very very interested in hearing what people have to say about my work.

During this week, I’ll probably be revisiting some pieces of my work here on the blog and also writing up and sharing some new ones with you all.

Oh! by the way, the “Adoption, My Voice, My Body” writing workshops were amazing. I’ll have some comments from participants up soon on the Workshop Page! I can’t wait to do it again and also to travel with it and share it with everyone.

Writing Workshop & Adoption

I’m excited I’ve finally got some time and space to teach this workshop I’ve been wanting to create for a while. This is the first iteration of it, as I hope to eventually move to where I am able to host a weekend or 4 day long writing, meditation and healing retreat at a writing/ retreat center somewhere, each that will focus on different member of the adoption circle. Please join me this coming June!

“Adoption, My Voice, My Body: A Writing Workshop”
Sunday June 5th (for Adopted People) and Saturday June 11th (for Birth Parents), Saturday June 18th (for Adoptive Parents) — 11am-3pm, Oakland, CA

The workshop is a one day, four hour workshop. I’ve been approached over and over about facilitating writing time for adopted people and adoptive parents. I really wanted each group of folks to have space and time to be with other people who are ‘like them’, and to have space to share what are very intimate and personal stories. We will be doing all kinds of writing exercises to get your juices flowing and to draw out stories you want to work on. Race, Class and Gender will be important parts of our writings and discussions. Even if you feel like you have no ideas, but you want to just come and ‘dump’ and use the time to write and express – you are welcome!

I’m so excited to be with other people who have been thinking about adoption, race and identity and doing my favorite thing – writing! I hope you will join me and if you can’t, please pass on to your networks of folks!

Here are the full details:

“Adoption, My Voice, My Body: A Writing Workshop”
Sunday June 5th (for Adopted People) and Saturday June 11th (for Adoptive Parents), Saturday June 18th (for Birth Parents.
11am-3pm, Oakland, CA

Do you have a story related to adoption and family you have been wanting to tell? Something to celebrate? Something you have been struggling with? Do you have a memory you would like to start writing down? A memoir you want to begin or keep writing on? This is an excellent workshop for both those who will for the first time be trying to consider how adoption has impacted their life and for those who have spent a lot of time considering their relationship to adoption. This workshop is for both experienced writers and those who have no writing experience. We will work from “where you are” to explore your stories, thoughts and ideas.

Week 1: For Adopted People (10 seats) – Sunday June 5th
This week welcomes all adopted people – same race, transracial / inter-country and kinship adoptees. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing our memories, our voices and our stories as adopted people and time focusing on our bodies as holding memory and histories that need to be spoken.

Week 2: For Birth Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 11th
This week welcomes all Birth Parents, both mothers and fathers together to write. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your stories, thoughts and ideas about your connection or disconnection to the children in your life who are also impacted by adoption and your body as it remembers the past.

Week 3: For Adoptive Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 18th
This week welcomes adoptive parents to spend time exploring your stories. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your memories, your voices and time with the concepts of family, mothering and fathering in a way that will focus on your own specific stories of the challenges and joys of adoptive parenting.

Other Workshop Details
Workshop Fee: $80 general, $60 (students & seniors. Email for discount)
Space for 10 participants
Oakland, CA
Reserve your space NOW!

Matt Blesse, Poet, Korean Adoptee reads “On Korea”

Found this for ya’ll. wanted to share :)

“My Grandmother” by Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay’s work is a major part of my dissertation. While reading / researching her work, I found this poem written by her. I thought I would share it, as representative of the conflicting emotional and political relationships that many of us adoptees of color who are transracially adopted have with this weird thing, “National Adoption Day” that argues ‘any family’ is better than ‘no family’.

and me? I remember the day, at my grandmother’s 85th birthday party, she patted me on the knee and said, “you’re just a little white girl, Lisa”.


My Grandmother

My grandmother is like a Scottish pine
Tall straight-backed proud and plentiful
A fine head of hair, greying now
Tied up in a loose bun
Her face is ploughed land
Her eyes shine rough as amethysts
She wears a plaid shawl
Of our clan with the zeal of an Amazon
She is one of those women
Burnt in her croft rather than moved off the land
She comes from them, her snake’s skin
She speaks Gaelic mostly, English only
When she has to, then it’s blasphemy
My grandmother sits by the fire and swears
There’ll be no Darkie baby in this house

My grandmother is a Scottish pine
Tall straight-backed proud and plentiful
Her hair tied with pins in a ball of steel wool
Her face is tight as ice
And her eyes are amethysts.

Jackie Kay is a black Scottish poet who was born in Edinburgh and raised in Glasgow. She has published her poems widely and her volume The Adoption Papers won an Eric Gregory Award in 1991. She has also written three plays, Chiaroscuro in 1986; Twice Over in 1988; and Every Bit Of It in 1992. Her television work includes films on pornography, AIDS and transracial adoption, and Twice Through the Heart, a poetry documentary for BBC2.

This poem was first published in 1991 in That Distance Apart, London: Turret Books.

April 13 Poem A Day

April 13

we shop for textiles, fabric and thread
as if it is the only thing we have to discuss

we pore over colors, cut shapes of disjointed edges
and I ignore how our bodies aren’t the same

you teach me patterns, flowers, log cabins, strips connecting
and pretend not to read what I write about the world

we align the squares, sewing them with articulate stitches
denying how much work it will take to make them fit

blue veins of your hands come through your skin clear now
I am afraid when I look at my brown fingers, of what will tear us apart.

but we stitch and iron and hum with this strong thread
cover the floor we sit on with laughter as I pull out a crooked stitch
and re-do it, tighter.

Prompt: write a poem that incorporates a hobby.

April 12 Poem A Day

April 12

so we decided to take down the garden

for years after she died
my brother and I continued to meet
four times a year on the farm
clearing away brush, weeds and dead snails

my mothers hands on both of our minds
shoveling manure to spread evenly over
the deliberate rows of lettuce, squash and pumpkin
singing aloud to the cherry trees and grapevines

her voice is a witching song
every season it lulls me back to the forest
pulls life from seeming cold stems
making black gold from blackberry vines
that grow rich on the side of the fence

my brother watches me out of the corner of his eyes
struggling with the weight of the tree trunks
crying as the songs do not come
his hand is warm over mine as he takes the axe from me
and lays it down, next to the husk this apple tree has become
overgrown and unkempt.

Prompt: Take the phrase “So we decided to (blank)” and fill in the blank. Make that your title and write a poem.

**this is a future casting. my mother is alive and kicking it in her garden.

April 11 Poem a Day

April 11

the problem is
on days when the couch bed pushes back
leaves me stiff and strangled by loose blankets
I deliberately miss the formality of matching sheets
on the bed in the room that sits empty
and pass out into sleep front of the television
computer humming safely in the background

on these days
I would take any kiss from you
even if it means I am
home wrecker
other woman

April 10 Poem a Day

April 10

a quilted pattern of darkness
descends on her nights
she wanders about
stubs her toes on chairs that
in the blackness
carry unknown shapes
afraid to flip on the lights
so she’ll see how empty the house
has become
over and over
she ducks imaginary bats caused
by flickering street lights on her ceiling
not wanting to disturb what may fly around
and land in her dreams

cursing as her feet slam up against the wood
she stumbles back to the bed
to stare into the blue light coming through
slits of metal on the window
so sleep eventually will come.

April Poetry Month Poem a Day

I’m officially on a 15 day fast from facebook. I hope nobody tries to email me there and expect me to respond.

Its National Poetry Month and I’ve taken the challenge of writing one “poem a day”  for the thirty days of April.

The PAD (poem a day) has been a great exercise for me in focus and also revisiting my love of expression.  I’ve been posting my poems on facebook, but since I’m on a fast from its time sucking devilishness, I’ll be continuing my PAD commitment by posting my poems here. I’m actually behind and playing catch up on my PAD’s! here are my April 8 and April 9 pieces. April 10 and 11 to follow asap!


April 9 PAD

the poetry reading

paper burning in the background
her journal ripped apart
shreds of the thick paper
on the hard wood floor
in the hall leading her like
petals down the aisle
she shakes her head

there are so many lovers
she murmurs
grief in her eyes as she
notices him asleep in the corner
flames shadowing his invasion
under this full moon
he is no more than a boy

her hair falls against her shoulder
a reminder of his fingers
before the poems opened up a crack
in the solitude of their
relief to find one another

she shakes her head
knows its time to leave
and pulls her curls back into a knot
before trying to paste the pages
back together
burnt and covered with soot.

April 8 PAD
you stand at the shoreline
asking for forgiveness
yeymaya doesn’t chide you
she simply waits
washes her hair, sighing
remembering when you brought flowers

and a little glad jar of desert earth
to bless your feet as you prayed
first breath of the joy you discovered
her kisses, tongue and neck

you start forward
toes clenching onto broken shells
that cut into your toes
blood forging shapes into the water
floating like lily pads then
dissipating into brown froth
hoping she will see your
purge, and beg her for
favor restored.

Butterfly Kiss

for my dad

On girl scout good night

my nose, brown and small

rubs warm against my fathers

crooked and strong.

this nose kiss between us

smells like army green sleeping bags

patient redwood fires and

burnt marshmallow chocolate

breath steaming the air visible.

we ignore the other fathers and daughters

lean in, share eyelashes

catch and tangle them together.

he completes our ritual

brushes my cheek with his silken lash

feels like a misguided spider

rushing across my arm

delicious tickle.

I am safe

as we drift to sleep

under these meteor showers.



her thighs

sore with memory

shift back and forth as she walks

uphill toward the train

she is all tears and fog

left alone to soon

captured by ten years of

photographs transformed to

what now looks like regret


her body has been an earthquake shift

tectonic plates sliding out of place

revealing hidden earth, graves and bodies


she walks crooked

asphalt under her cracked now

like the day she is about to encounter

loss stinging her cheeks

like the fog in the air


she is demented metal

sidewalk trash fury

on the side of skyscrapers

ill-fitting and torn


the train is coming

breeze sucking air from tunnels

she stands spine tall to keep her

chest from caving in

hollow from giving voice

to echoes, ghosts

and orange desire.

Haiku for Layla

this feels like school time

she grumbled but took a pen

beauty and stars came out

TRA camp Decompression #1

I just got back from PACT camp. It was both very very hard and very fulfilling at the same time. Its going to take me a few days until I am able to articulate some of the emotions I had while I was there – but of course they include rage, comfort and well… rage.

Things I promise to write about soon:

  • The precious and for me – the first time ever – fellowship with fellow adult adoptees Ji-in, Susan Ito, Amy G., Heather and Robin Rasbury.
  • The adult adoptee panel madness
  • Going to little kid, ‘tween’ and teen sessions and my interaction with the kids during each (oh HELL no – no she didnt!)
  • My poetry workshops with the Teens
  • My ability to call upon my superhuman strength to protect AP’s from getting choked in public and in front of their kids. (even tho some of those kids probably would have joined in the choking)
  • Where this all puts me in relationship to my own birth search.
  • oh – and dont let me forget to tell you about the woman who actually challenged my relationship with my own AP’s, saying – wow, you and your mother must not have much to talk about, making sure we all knew SHE wasnt like that. woman- dont talk about my momma! dont you know betta than to talk about a black womans momma?

so i am left with this – my own poetry piece that emerged when I did the workshop with the fabulous TRA teens, who I at this moment pledge to protect and serve until … I cant stand thier parents anymore and I need to take a break.

I am a head full of silence

I am an arm weak with fighting

I am a heart bloody with tears

red hot from explaining

we are lost children

red cold from the refrain of we are lost

and simultaneously found

we are safe and at the same time in constant danger.

Until we find another safe space

until we wake and we are home

until we sing a round of songs that lifts our

souls up high and washes out the dream

that continue to make us tired of hearing your lies

about our lives

about our mornings

our times alone

our strengths, my weak arms,

weak fingers

constantly trying to continue to move move move

to breathe, to groove

all i need is a story of my birth

the reclamation of how i am connected

to this earth

not just an unfamiliar silent head.

Copper Rose


she is stark blue
in her school uniform
starched and clipped tight
class picture day
she is all bubbles,
sun and fire smiles with glossed
and combed pigtails
waiting for the camera man
to line her up with the other girls

that day
she is brown skin turning to fire
eyes full of thunder
as he lines her up on the boy side
a tornado of pain
a copper heart
like a cold penny taste.


Ungrateful Daughter Show

last night was the premiere of my work in progress "Ungrateful Daughter" at Off-Market Theatre in SF! Man —- after not performing for 4 years.. i think it all came out last night. I feel SO good and so much of what needed to be put out there … was put out there. I didnt miss ANY of my lines and it was GREAT!!

The piece is a piece I've been working on for the past 8 weeks and last nights show was only the first 15 minutes. It touches on the painful and joyful aspects of being transracially adopted. I hope to get some reviews of the piece up soon.

I'm planning on producing the show again soon. But in the East Bay. At some point I hope to travel with the piece and take it to a few places around the country. I hope you all can come!!


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