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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
I am safe
as we drift to sleep
under these meteor showers.
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.
this feels like school time
she grumbled but took a pen
beauty and stars came out
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,
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.
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
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.
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!!