Poetry: it inevitably relates to -- among others -- identity, history, culture, class, race, community, economics, politics, power, loss, health, desire, regret, language, form and genre disruption, love ... as well as the absences thereofs. The same may be said about Adoption.

Sunday, March 20, 2011



My wife and I adopted a year old baby girl in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2000. We were very fortunate to receive a referral right after we qualified and went to Ecuador less than 6 months after starting the process. Both of us have worked in other nations, so traveling to South America was not a source of anxiety. Nevertheless, we arrived in Ecuador three days after a military coup had taken place (we knew this, but chose to travel anyway), and that event made the in-country process much longer and more complex than we had been led to expect.

Our daughter, Sofia, had spent her entire life in a lovely, small nursery on a hill outside Cuenca. She was very well adjusted and had no problems with our arrival and we took "possession" of her right away. Much of the rest of the story is anecdotal and humorous now (it certainly wasn't then), including driving across the Andes in a battered old van on single lane dirt roads, etc. But after 21 days, and more than a few "donations" to various bureaucrats, we arrived in the U.S. at 1:20 PM on February 14. We completed the U.S. adoption exactly a year later, and we celebrate this day as "happy adoption day" every year.




Because I tend to write long, serial works and not many discrete poems, I can only think about this question in a macro or gestalt form. Sofia is a remarkable person and has taught me much. All of this experience, from the struggle in Ecuador to this morning's phone call with her teacher affects my poetry and I'm hard-pressed to draw any better delineating lines.



This is a poem about Ecuador which I wrote subsequent to the adoption. It's part of a series of "geographies" that appeared in my book True News (Instance Press, 2002), but it's the closest I can come to an individual poem that is in dialogue with the adoption experience.


       Cloud broke, wave froze
       tooth and blade
       whetted on the bone of
       the back of the world.

       Stars between islands
       corners and steps—
       this is the
       closed country.

       Then we crossed a cold equator and fell through a vertical horizon, that sentence behind the sentence, breathless.

       Nowhere else


       Awake all night in
       wet cement and choked barks
       arrested between sighs
       for promises to harden.

       Then sour milk and
       cash exchange –
       knives, cloaks,
       anonymous witnesses.

       We had heard how, when surrounded and outnumbered, conquistadors invited their enemies to dinner then beheaded them with salutes.

       Wait in the sky and
       see what fate can do.


       Is family learned
       or instinct—
       to sleep on any pillow as
       the sum of endless distances.

       Knowing how rain can split a mountain and
       how a mountain can fill a sky and
       how a sky is neither pavilion nor abyss and
       how an abyss fills mouth and throat, all gravity.

       Between the mud factory and a path paved with last intentions we changed languages, then whispered into the deafening drone, foreigners again.

       That which we inhabit
       inhabits us.


       To keep a secret
       one story must be true and
       another false or at least
       as invisible as the obvious.

       These children float
       drop-by-drop, ghost-to-glass
       not rain but always
       the color of rain.

       After the king was allowed to fill a temple with his own ransom he was offered a choice of implements, sashes and cords, for his garrote.

       To live here means one
       way to go or the other.


       Tongue slipped in toe hold
       to climb among
       words through
       crevice and plunge.

       Learn to say “please”
        “thank you” and
        “the way your mountains
       prove the earth is flat.”

       These are the illiterate pictures of beauty without desire, longing without a mask, allegory without every new name alight.

       If body could only be
       made of more earth.


       A squared arch to
       a trapezoidal door to
       a circular tomb where
       even breath cannot slip between stones.

       The memory of a giant condor
       rorschached the sun
       but we went on burning
       the rope bridge at both ends.

       In the fortress of no resistance, gravity denied the distinctions and we learned to inhabit a wedge; admission will be free but there is no refuge.

       This wind is
       a moving hole.


       A boy with a gun
       hummed an imported
       tune intended to
       keep the deadly peace.

       There was no end
       to the thirst or
       the sweet salt
       that drank it.

       So we galloped hard through a desert thatched by root and vine, gold-fields and landing zones, cemeteries and monkey markets, toward a city at war with itself.

       Always the same gesture to
       take the world and give it back.


       Every day the cloud factory
       draws a new map
       and asks “is this
       all there is?”

       Then what to leave
       behind: our furniture,
       our food, our voyage
       without wake.

       It is simply the world that always wants more of itself so that we may someday resume the point of no return and count our blessings where we left them.

       Those who can not go home
       already are home.



Craig Watson is the author of Sleepwalking With Orpheus (Shearsman, 2011), Secret Histories (Burning Deck, 2007), True News (Instance Press, 2002) and nine other books. He has worked in the performing arts, corporate arts, literary arts and emergency services, among other oddly grouped activities. He lives on an island with his wife and daughter. spending an ever-decreasing amount of time on the “main” land.


1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Nice piece this! Impressive write!