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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

kim thompson


more thoughts on what can or cannot be...

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 11:44am

"as an adoptee, i..."

and then where does one go with that statement...

its like when (non adoptees) say "but arent you glad that you grew up in the west? i mean if youd grown up in korea as an orphan or with your mom you would have been so poor and you wouldnt have gotten to do everything youve done"

they say this as if i have never considered this...
they ask this as if i could ever really choose the goodness of the life i know over a life i do not know... they ask this as if i could really choose if i want to love my umma or if i want to love my two aunts pat and kathy and have loved my beloved grandparents—jerry and loretta... "you can only choose one"
they ask me this as if i could really choose between the things i can do with english and what i most likely would have been able to do with korean...
they ask me this as if i could choose between being my umma's daughter or being my mother's daughter...
they ask me this as if i could choose between having been able to see so much of the world and live so many places or grow up in the city that i was born in and know it like the back of my own hand and understand my relationship with the river that runs through it...
they ask me as if whatever my answer is, is somehow representative of the other 199,000+ adoptees...

they ask me as if i somehow have an answer to questions that
(im beginning to believe)
were not necessarily meant to be reconciled with an answer of knowing.

sometimes "i dont know" is the best answer

and so, i say that more and more:

Q: "how are things with your umma?"
A: "*sighs* its a very complicated relationship. i dont know what to say about it except that some things are not necessarily meant to be reconciled."

Q: "how is it living in korea? it must be nice looking like everyone else."
A: "i love it here but it is also such a complicated relationship. and i dont look like everyone else, but yes if an aerial shot were taken of me standing at a crosswalk in a crowd waiting for the light to change then you wouldnt be able to find me and that feels nice. but no, i dont fit in here... not all things are meant to be reconciled."

Q: "that must be hard for you being as you are in a place that is so conservative"
A: "i dont know. its ok. sometimes it makes me crazy and sometimes it doesnt. sometimes minneapolis made me crazy and sometimes the liberals there made me crazy... and sometimes they didnt and sometimes minneapolis didnt... i dont think that everything can be reconciled, when so much of my being who i am, in a place like this, is so full of complexities."

Q: "it must be so nice having found your umma. you're so lucky. do you see her all the time?"
A: "*long sigh* i am beyond fortunate and i know that. but its so damn complicated and has led to 2 plus years of insanity that im only recently just coming out from... i dont know that something that is so full of complexities and balls of string can ever be fully reconciled... the past cannot be undone ... she is dealing with her own things and i am dealing with mine. some things take so much time..."

Q: "so your korean must be really good. has it been easy to learn?"
A: "for me, as an adoptee, i find that learning the language is also a constant reminder of how i have lost this language. which then for me, as an adoptee, i end up getting angry at my umma which leads to getting angry at korea and the west and every single person who gives their kid up for adoption and it spirals out of control and then i have to spend the next minutes saying 'breathe kim. calm down. your teacher is just asking you to answer if you have milk in your house, in korean.'
so no, it is not easy... it is a daily uphill struggle that cannot be explained... but within it, as an adoptee, i am finding the joy of doing plays on words between korean and english ... but no... it is not easy and i doubt my relationship to the language can ever be fully reconciled."

Q: "does you umma wish she'd kept you?"
A: "does your mother wish she hadn't kept you?"

but no one seems to ask the things that "as an adoptee, i" spend a lot more time thinking about and working through... like:

"what is your relationship to the han river? is that why youve always lived in cities or villages that have a significant body of water running down their middle?"

"what is your body's relationship to the physical geography of the place? is that why youve often lived and have always preferred to live and have always felt most at home in places that are comprised of mountains and rivers or oceans?"

"how does it feel to know that your body is so much of this place. your genetic history is all here and you are returned to it and yet often all you can feel is the loss of all of these things?"

"how is it that almost all of your friends in the states are white and you love as you love your own life, but here in korea you tend to avoid making friendships with white foreigners? what does this say about you? are you internalizing some kind of racism? or are you simply enjoying the fact that you have a choice that you didnt have before? and do you ever feel badly for thinking that?"

"do you see any possibilities of making it as a full time artist there just as you did for years back in minneapolis? do you ever get lost in this? do you ever grow despondent in this? do you ever feel like youve given up so much to be here and wonder if and how this is going to work out?"

"are you being changed by the place? what are you learning about yourself?"

"are you confronting and acknowledging just how deep your attachment and abandonment issues go? or are you still doing like you used to when youd always tell us 'im not affected by that shit that just for weak people who end up on tv talk shows' ?"

"do you see other adoptees as some kind of distant relatives? even the crazy ones? do you have love for the crazy ones?"

"are you sometimes jealous of kyopos for being able to speak korean?"

"do adoptees have a lot of in house fighting and differ greatly on their opinions towards international adoption and being adopted?"

"does it ever make you sad that sometimes people seem to misunderstand what youre saying, and take it to mean that youre bitter when really youre saying, 'i love my life. but i think the system is corrupt and needs to change as its not right to sell children whove been stolen from their families and its not right to deny adopteees access to their own records and its not right that there is and has been such little support for single mothers who are the 'source' of 90% of children being put up for adoption -- but NONE of these things change the reality that i love the life that i have been given and feel immensely blessed each and every day and i am learning to accept that not everything is meant to be reconciled.'"


"how do you feel when you eat the food and hear the chatter of people and take everything in and just feel like youre constantly discovering this part of you that you spent the majority of your life denying that it even existed?"


"do you think that all adoptee literature and plays are good?"

"do you think that some adoptees are dealing with their inner demons in some very unhealthy ways, even though they appear to be such impressive individuals? do you think that YOU are dealing with your issues in some very unhealthy ways? do you think you are learning how to deal with your issues in healthier ways?"


"do you think that there are enough counseling services and support systems in place for adoptees especially in terms of post-reunion?"

"what is post-reunion anyways?"

"do you ever feel like youve just committed to a form of insanity? do you ever worry that maybe this is going to be your undoing? do you ever feel like this might be the path to your own enlightenment? do you ever feel all of those things at the same time? what is that like - to live with so many conflicting emotions all at once each and every day?"

and then...

"what are the things that you believe may not be meant to be reconciled both within yourself, in your relationship with your umma, in your relationship with the people, city, the river, and the country?"

to which i would answer

"all of them."

followed by a "and accepting that is making all the difference in the world for the me who is 'as an adoptee, i...' "



i was adopted and i am an adoptee, so whether i am writing specifically about such themes or the smell of bread coming from the baker's at the end of my street or how i mistook the moon for a street lamp—i view all of my writing to have been and to be affected by my experiences as an adoptee. i do not view it to be my all defining point just as i do not view my spiritual beliefs or sexuality or the fact that i love meat to be my sole points of definition... but, i do ... view each thing as being a part of who i am and who i am then shapes how i speak and write ... and how i speak and write then shapes how i am and how i live as a queer meditating (yet non full fledged buddhist) meat eating korean american adoptee who has wandered about the world ...



Note: i wrote this on mother's day this spring whilst i was visiting in mpls... *originally the word "umma" is written in hangul/korean in my poem but have romanized it for easier viewing and readability.

for (my) umma

the past cannot be undone...
it is not a string that can be
unknotted ...
nor unwound

and yet (i) have stood before you
unraveling since the moment that
you let me
(halfway) in

and the half of me thats still outside
and the half of me thats been let inside
are divided into broken splinters
my heart a human form of flowering

but i love you
and have done so
since you carried me sight unseen
back when your flesh was my shield
back when we stirred each other into waking
i have loved you always
even in the midst of every righteous tantrum fit of anger/pain for all you did
and did not

and our past is the world's largest ball of seemingly unworkable yarn
but the train keeps speeding forward
and the solitary street lamps
are shining down on this
slowly knitted path

so today
just like back in the beginning
and all throughout the middle...
i love you with the heart
that you and he
made for me.

Image from kim's 2006 solo work at Intermedia Arts, Mpls, MN where she was a recipient of their "Naked Stages" grant. The title of the piece was: "timeline autobigraphia: everything that is..." Photo by Usry Alleyne



kim thompson is an interdisciplinary artist who was born in seoul, s. korea in 1975 and sent overseas for adoption in 1976. she grew up in s. florida, wandered around europe for most of her 20's, and is currently residing in seoul. before moving to seoul she lived in minneapolis, mn where she was the recipient of several state and national grants including the 2008/2009 jerome travel grant for literature. her style of writing falls within the genre of the jazz aesthetic, hence the seeming "lack" of caps and punctuation as she uses such things to denote—emphasis, space, and breath.

she has been published in the O.K.A.Y. (the Overseas Korean Artist Yearbook) book vol 6; G.O.A.L's (Global Overseas Adoption Link in Seoul, S. Korea) publication "The OAK Newsletter," where her work was also translated into Korean; and the Playwright's Center in minneapolis, mn "Notes From Rehearsal" website.

along with other poet adoptees residing in n. america, s. africa, and korea, kim runs a korean adoptee poetry blog at: www.thursdaypoems.blogspot.com


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