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 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 sweet jane doe
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to the Japanese man
at the bar who asked me
if I knew that Filipinos
are the Black people
Im a nigger nigger?
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.
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!
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!
“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
Reserve your space NOW!
Found this for ya’ll. wanted to share :)
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 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.
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.
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.