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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012



My daughter, “Mary,” was placed at birth through a closed adoption in 1966.  My daughter contacted me at age 26.  At her request, we met in 1993. Our reconnection was extremely emotional, cathartic and liberating for me. From that day forward, I no longer needed to purge my longing or secreted desire to see and embrace her on canvas. After our meeting I was also able to pen the poetry that was deep within my heart for twenty-six years. Undeniable feelings I experienced but never allowed myself to write. And it felt good to put words on paper.

Today, when I look at my artwork from that secreted adoption placement time in my life, I see shame, sadness, and confusion oddly depicted in a serene manner. My paintings were a means of transferring, to canvas, innermost feelings at that time. Artwork sustained me. It was a means of channeling my feelings …a way to speak the unspoken. Little by little, I transitioned from painting somber self-portraits to creating a little girl who grew up on canvas. That girl was “Mary” …my daughter. I painted the pretty blond, blue-eyed girl from toddler to young adult. The last painting of Mary shows no face but rather the image of a young woman looking beyond. Surreal as the thought may have been at the time, I believed in my heart, that someday, we would meet as women.

As for art, I stepped away from painting for nearly two decades following our reunion, but in the past year have felt energized to create again.

It is my belief that creating on canvas and writing from one's heart are certainly undeniable vehicles of communication, both in sadness and joy.

I am currently in the final phase of publishing Mary and Me Beyond the Canvas A Birth Mother's Memoir.



This poem is the last in a series written about my secret adoption experience.

Garden Gate

The young woman paused
At my garden gate
The time was not early
The time was not late
Her head slightly turned
I saw no face
Still my heart felt calm
At this mystical place

Distance remained
While briefly she stayed
Still looking beyond
But not away

Then mist filled the air
As dew touched the ground
And I understood why
She turned not around

This portrait I reasoned
Must be the last
Knowing one day her future
Would include my past

Susan Van Sleet, an artist and writer, has always been passionate about her creations and believes her earliest poetry and artwork are naturally cathartic. For nearly three decades, using art as therapy, Susan processed her longing for the estranged child she had placed through a closed adoption in 1966. She privately named her birth daughter, Mary. When the two women met, in 1993, at Mary’s request, Susan saw for the first time the daughter she had only imagined for nearly three decades. As a writer, her published poetry has been described as riveting. Susan is currently writing a memoir, Mary and Me …Beyond the Canvas, which is scheduled for release early next year.

Monday, September 24, 2012



My mother died when I was born. I spent my first five years in foster care and was officially adopted at 7. I have been a foster parent and even foster /adoption worker for three years.  



Even as an adult there lingers a longing and question that I can only locate in my identity as an orphan. I often write from that place. 



For Waiting Children

Why am I hanging still---on---
Hanging singing that same ole song
from the days of love long gone
momma, daddy-- so shady
for the love of and want of the like of me--maybe
so here i am just hanging on

To love as a thought as a concept
sometimes touch and hug and nothing less
than second or third
i heard
 you look at self and your wealth
and your own health 
while I still hang

out the window of hope do you see me dangling
umbilical cord I'm wrangling
away from my neck like a rope

choking like smoke
my throat my soul
fingertip and heart string cold 
from hanging here

waiting to be chosen
thawed un frozen
by hands, blood, veins
the change from smiling grinning

with you prophesying and lying

trying to wax eloquent 
when God really sent you to
to repent--
for leaving me hanging



Rev. Denise Kingdom Grier is a native of New York City.  Her mother, a single parent, died shortly after giving birth, leaving both Denise and her older brother permanent wards of the New York City court.  She spent five years in foster care after which time she was adopted by a childless couple. Rev. Grier moved to North Carolina as a teen and endured many emotional struggles, which fueled her desire to help struggling children.  She went on to attend Shaw University in Raleigh, NC where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Shortly after graduating from college she worked as a Habilitation Technician for children with severe disabilities.  She later went on to become a Housing Supervisor and Case Manager for homeless women and children.  In 1998 she moved to Michigan where she was a child welfare specialist at Bethany Christian Services in Holland. Her job included foster care, adoptions, licensing, foster parent training and post adoption support services. Since leaving Bethany she has completed her Master of Divinity and has been ordained and installed as senior pastor at Maple Avenue Church and Ministries in Holland, MI.

Denise and her husband Chris are licensed foster parents with the state of Michigan where they specialize in older children and permanent state wards.  In their thirteen years of marriage they have parented 13 children ,most of which were non-foster care placements. Denise is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., a mentor and community advocate for parents and children, as well as the biological mother of two biological children ages 6 and 9.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012



How adoption affected me: I'd never told my story of opening my adoption while I lived it. A few friends knew details but not all of it. I got the idea for a book when I wrote an article in 2005 about stolen generations of North American Indian children placed for adoption with non-Indian parents. That article, "Generation after Generation, We are Coming Home" was published in Talking Stick magazine in New York City and then in News from Indian Country in Wisconsin. It took me down a path I never expected.

I'd lived as an adoptee but had not done research into its history. I was not aware of the various medical terms for adoptee issues such as severe narcissist injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is new science called birth psychology so I read studies about adoptees in treatment for identity issues, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), depression and suicidal thoughts. Then I found statistics. So I wrote my memoir as an adoptee and wrote about the history and business of adoption as a journalist. I found more adoptees after my article was published, which really added to my understanding of the devastating impact of the Indian Adoption Projects.


Trace A. DeMeyer is also the author of ONE SMALL SACRIFICE: A MEMOIR / Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Project (Blue Hand Books, Massachusetts, 2010-2012).  This is part of her Preface to the First Edition:

I’m a fly on the wall, one who listens, the observer of the absurd, and a young girl wearing braids. That’s me standing in front of an Ojibwe wigwam with my adoptive mother Edie and my adopted brother Joey. I’m the only Indian in this family. It was 1969. I’m 12 and the family is attending the famous Lumberjack Festival in Hayward, Wisconsin. Then I heard the drum. The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe powwow was happening on the same grounds. The sound of the drum, the men singing filled me, like my heart opened up and the sky fell in. I could not tell anyone what I was feeling that day but it made me feel good, proud, and different. I knew I was an Indian girl just like the other girls I saw there but no one could tell me anything since I was adopted.

Back then life was about mystery. I knew little to nothing about being adopted or Indian, just that I was.

North American Indians call adoptees Lost Birds, Lost Ones or Split Feathers. Adoption messes with the brain’s natural order so we Split Feathers get two experiences. I explain how later. One could argue which experience is best.

Adoption practices affecting one race of people had a specific purposethe break-up of Indian families, to disrupt tribal culture across North America. I guess the idea was to assimilate us, tame us red devils and dirty savages. No kidding. So what is known about the Indian Adoption Projects and the aftermath, it’s pretty much been secret. Few books acknowledge it happened, but it did...

It hurts to think secret adoption files (thick binders of papers with real names and the identities of real people) are still guarded (sealed by law) in 2011.  This pretty much guarantees adoptees won’t be rejoining their tribal nation or family any time soon.

Wisconsin was my home. I was transracially adopted and I’m American Indian and Irish. I am one of the lucky few who opened my adoption in a sealed record state...

Someone blogged in 2008: “Anyone who questions the Adoption Game gets thrown in jail or called crazy.” Call me crazy then. Ground Zero for me was 2004, when I decided to write about it. Adoption “secrecy” made that nearly impossible. As a journalist I soon discovered nothing about adoption is simple or open; not after 1,000 drafts of this book; not after reading my file at age 22 back in 1979.

I expected little help or new discoveries. I didn’t know there were six to ten million adoptees in the USA (alone). Some are blazing hot new trails on the internet global highway. I make friends, both Indian and non-Indian. Nor did I expect to find so many of us. We’re all clinging to the same boat. Some even blog about it.

One in three Americans has an immediate family member who has been adopted…

Every Indian reservation in North America has a story about missing lost children and future generations who carry the stigma of lost language and culture. Some say Indian reservations were baby factories for social workers to fill their orders, or the place where churches and government abducted children for residential boarding schools.

Very few Americans witnessed this upheaval firsthand. Very few saw the Indian boarding schools and assimilation by whip or by washing the child’s mouth with lye soap. Few knew that the Indian Adoption Projects and Programs were an orchestrated act of genocide, the same as ethnic cleansing. Many friends remember when they were abducted as children, not babies, virtually erased from tribal rolls, not told their tribe or their family’s name.

These children, now adults, are expected to accept this? Funny thing is lost birds/adoptees don’t look like adoptive mom or dad. So we are not supposed to notice this or dare to ask?

I strongly believe adopted children are in training to become warriors. I know many strong courageous adoptees.

Who said wild animals bred in captivity can never return to the wild? Can an Indian child return to the wilds of Indian Country? Sure, but not without baggage…maybe a language barrier, maybe a fear of the unknown.

Indian Country is still our home and adoptees like me will not be satisfied until they get some answers and meet some family.

This book could have many names: Innocent Kid Running into a Minefield; Outside the Circle; Adoption Didn’t kill our Spirit; Orphan Trauma; Babies to Distribute: Cultural Genocide; Not Exactly Grateful; Our Ancestors Prayed for Us to be Born; The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian; and Adoption Reality is No Place for the Weak. All would fit.

My Irish blood advised, tell your whole story. The Indian in my heart cautioned me to stay balanced, humble. Shame tried to interfere and told me to keep quiet. I took my old humiliations and used them like keys. I open up my life like a can of worms.

Take a journey with me. Keep reading.

Trace A. DeMeyer/ Laura Thrall-Bland/ Winyan Ohmanisa Waste La Ke



My poetry has come in spurts my entire life. There are months I may fill a notebook and other times nothing comes.  I do have to be inspired. Gathering the poems for Sleeps With Knives was a challenge for me but I am glad I did it. Many of the poems relate to my childhood and experiences as an adoptee. I told a friend that each poem comes with a free knife, since many are cutting and sharp.



ghost shell

what we inherit. . . a ghost shell. . .
I dream of this, the weight,
a tortoise shell on my back, a heavy hull.
Did I choose its protection? I was asleep.
No one ever said, “You can drop it now” or
“It’s safe to drop that, you’ll be ok.”
Maybe the shell did protect me at one time
when I needed armor.
Maybe it isolated me for reasons
I do not know or understand.
It was heavy and hard to balance.
When I woke up, I could feel its weight.
I can still feel it, like a ghost,
like an arm or leg amputated.
Somehow it still signals my brain,
“Protect yourself.”
Maybe my mother put this shell on me before she left me.
Maybe I inherited it, like a talisman.
Maybe the shell was what women in my family wore to survive.
All I know is I was born with it.

[First published in Sleeps With Knives notionally by Laramie Harlow, a pen name (Blue Hand Books)]



Professional blogger, mosaic artist and award-winning journalist Trace A. DeMeyer is former editor of the Pequot Times in Connecticut and editor/co-founder of Ojibwe Akiing; in 2012, she free-lances for the national newspaper News from Indian Country in Wisconsin and maintains three blogs and a Twitter newspaper: Modern Ndn.  

Her academic writing, “Power, Politics and the Pequot: The world’s richest Indians” was presented in Munich at the 26th American Indian Workshop.  She is also the author of “Honor Restored: The Story of Jim Thorpe” in the book “The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics and the Games 2000, published by Rutgers Press.  Her book, One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir, Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Project, describes the little-known history of the Indian Adoption Project and Indian Child Welfare Act; the new second edition was released in February 2012 on Amazon and Kindle.

Trace blogs about American Indian Adoptees at www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com. 

Monday, August 20, 2012



I never thought about this being my story, it has always been my secret. I have been extremely selective about who I share it with over the years. I am an Army brat and my story starts on an Army base in Germany. Being 20 years old, still living at home and being in Germany was a blast! I had a part time job for extra money, gave my parents $75 a month and had the freedom to do as I pleased within reason. I was a partier. Out every night with my friends just enjoying life as a young adult. 

I met Larry at the NCO club and thought he was cute, a rocker with an army cut. We hit it off, fell in love, got engaged, then found out I was pregnant. It's ok he told me, we were going to get married and everything was going to be ok. He was from California and I was from Florida. He was about to get out of the army and go back to California, so I packed all my childhood in boxes and he sent them with his things back to his sister's home. 

He left Germany when I was 4 months pregnant and I left when I was 5 months pregnant. I did not however go to California. Once he got home and out of the army he decided to start drinking more and doing drugs with his buddies because this was cool and the far away pregnant fiance was not. We did talk on the phone but he never sounded excited anymore about getting us back together. When I finally realized I was on my own I panicked. 

My dad had just retired from the army and he and my step-mom were trying to adjust and get their lives together and find jobs. They said they would help as much as they could, but I knew it was a struggle for them as well. I saw ads in the paper for adoption agencies and so I called just to get information. My uncle asked to adopt my child but as much as I would have loved to give him and his wife the child they had been wanting, I thought it would be too hard for me knowing where she was.

When I called and told Larry I was thinking about adoption, he told me, "Do what you gotta do". So I did. When I told my mom about my decision she told me to have the baby in Texas and she would raise her. Again, I had to say no. I called the adoption lady again and they sent out a worker who explained the process and gave me a lot of paperwork to look over. Once I was sure it was what I was going to do, they found me an apartment, paid my bills furnished the apartment and gave me vouchers for food and clothing. 

My dad and step-mom supported me as much as they could. This was hard for them as she would be their first grandchild. I was so worried about being a burden to them that I never realized that had I chose to keep her, we would have found a way to make it work. I am that person that worries about what other people think and how things will affect them before I worry about myself. But that was not my reason for placing her. I was scared that we would be stuck on government assistance and I wouldn't be able to give her anything other than low income housing and food stamps. I had also never been out on my own for more then 3 months and I had made a mess of that real quick and ended up back with my dad. I had very low self esteem and belief in my own ability to be what she needed.

The agency brought me a stack of papers with bios of perspective parents. I got about halfway through and found "the ones" They had been married for 13 years and had not been able to have children. They were Christians. They had a summer house. They had a dog. They were perfect. They were THE ONES. I called my worker and told her. She told me not to rush into anything, she had tons more of these bios if I wanted to look, but I was sure this was it.

I found myself in the hospital having a baby on 2/18/94. Once she was born I counted her fingers and toes, I fed her, I changed her diapers. I was her mommy for 2 days. My grandma came and rocked her and loved her. My dad and step-mom came and fed and rocked her and loved her. I named her Sarah Joanne. Sarah after my step-mom's mom and Joanne because I thought "Sarah Jo" was cute. 

Danni and Sarah Jo

I had to stay in the hospital for a day longer then she did and that was the worst day of my life. The adoptive parents were out of state and they wouldn't be able to get there for a couple of days, so SJ was placed in a foster home type of situation the agency had. I on the other hand stayed in the hospital one more day then went home. I never knew a person could cry so much. The pain that I felt going home empty handed was so many million times worse than the pain of labor. I thought I was going to die. I think I lay in bed for the next two days, I really don't remember. I just remember crying until the tears ran out, then crying til it hurt too bad, and then crying even more. 

Two days later I went to the agency to place my baby into the arms of her mommy and daddy. I had only spoken to them once and had never met them. The first thing I did was hold SJ and put her in a new dress I had bought her before she was born. I kissed her checked her toes again and told her how much I loved her. Then I went into a small sitting room to talk to her parents. They were such nice people and that made me feel good. We discussed the "semi-openness" of this adoption. I was to get letters and pictures for the first year and that was it. 

The time had come to do the honors. I walked out to get SJ as they had not yet seen her. When I came back in with her, the smiles on their faces will be forever imprinted on my heart. Daddy had an ear to ear that would make a boston terrier look like it was frowning. My tears were no longer lonely, theirs were flowing down their cheeks as well. I cannot express what feelings were coming over me at that moment. In one room were the happiest and saddest people in the whole world. We all sat back down and talked for just a few more minutes but it got to be too much for me and I jumped up and ran from the room. Daddy came looking for me. He didn't have the heart to just leave without reassuring me that she was going to be ok. As they prepared to go all I could say was please take care of her. And they promised me they would.

I received the pictures and letters like clockwork for the first year and I have heard nothing since then. After they adopted her they received news that they could adopt a little boy from Russia. He was just a little bit younger then she was and they even sent me pictures with him and her. I devoured the letters written as if SJ was writing them and signed "Aimee". I stared at the pictures for hours and cried. In April, 2 months after having SJ I went to an army recruiter and signed up on the delayed entry program. I still had to lose weight before I could join the army. In October that year I left for basic training. My letters were still coming and while in Military Police school, my daughter turned one year old. 

The raw pain passed but the throbbing whole in my heart remains. I hope to one day reunite with my SJ and see her and my other three children get to know each other. For now I can only live on the faith that daddy did as he promised me and took care of my baby girl. This is my secret and reliving it here on this page has opened it all back up. I had been keeping it protected deep inside for a long time, but I think it is time to share it and let it heal more. Thank you for reading if you made it this far. I am sorry it was so long. Believe me, it could have been much longer! 

I am a birthmother. My daughter turned 18 this past February. I received pictures and letters for one year [after her adoption as a baby] and nothing since. I stopped writing poetry after my daughter was born. I have recently been able to open up a little about my experience with an online group for birthmothers I found. I am hoping to one day reunite with my daughter. 



Mine but Not

My mouth but not my laughter,
My eyes but not my tears,
I cannot gaze upon your face,
or chase away your fears.

My arms but not my hug,
My hands but not to hold,
I cannot feel you close to me,
or shield you from the cold.

My legs but not my journey,
My heart but not my song,
I cannot change the choice I made,
or know if I was wrong.

You are mine but not,
I am yours but not,
Another has taken my place
I am yours but not,
You are mine but not,
An emptiness time cannot erase.


My name is Danni Ingle. I was an Army Brat so I moved around all my life. After my relinquishment I joined the army and spent 3 years in Hawaii.  I now live in a small town in Oklahoma with my 3 parented children, 4 horses, 2 donkeys, 5 dogs, 2 cats, a cockatoo and my husband. I hope some day to reunite with my daughter or at least find out if she is ok and happy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012



I never had a father growing up. When I was six my mother married my stepfather--he adopted me when I was thirteen years old. Despite this, it was hard on me because we don't/didn't always see things eye to eye and there was always this void where my 'father' was supposed to be. It was difficult trying to explain to people that I was adopted because I come from a small/rural town where everyone might not like their father but most people have one. It was just really painful to hear people talk about their fathers in high school and all the things that they did with their father because I never met my biological father and MY adoptive father and I had never been close.



I used to write poetry to my father and I still do, at times. He was not a good man, I am told, but I can't help but be curious of him. I also write about my stepfather, at times, too--sometimes in love, other times in anger. Unfortunately it is more the latter than the former. He's a good guy, but I don't think he's ever tried to understand me.




you were void and you
created apertures in me,
the hole you tore through
me in your absence raged
with all the fury of the sea—
you were nothing in my
life, I wonder if that's
why even the zephyr is
deaf to my soft whispers?

(* about my birth father)

of claws and memories

they say you are a monster,
I wonder if I wear your claws —
am I that harpy that tears
people to pieces or that fire
breathing dragon that devours
people with sharp fangs —
is it possible for me to step out
of your shadow, to shake it
away; will I ever be able to forget
the man that I never knew?



Linda Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poems have been previously published in Magic Cat Press, Black-Listed Magazine, Bigger Stones, Vintage Poetry, The Stellar Showcase Journal, Ides of March, The Blinking Cursor, The Diversified Arts Project, The Railroad Poetry Project, Skive, The Scarlet Sound, Speech Therapy, Itasca Illinois & Willowtree Dreams, Dead Snakes, The Camel Saloon, Write From Wrong, Moon Washed Kisses, The Wilderness Interface Zone, Samizdat Literary Magazine, and Danse Macabre. Her short stories have been published in Carnage Conservatory, Daily Love, Circus of the Damned, and Linguistic Erosion.

Monday, February 6, 2012



My husband and I love a good travel adventure, as long it involves plenty of hot sun, good food and a comfy bed. Not exactly good reasons for adopting a child, right? But an unexpected bonus when we adopted our son from Manila.

Frankly, we’re amazed more people don’t jump at the chance to bring home a child from the Philippines. The people are beautiful, articulate and gracious. Compared to more popular adoption countries, the Philippines is much less like a “foreign” place – just about everyone speaks English, and McDonald’s is outnumbered only by KFC.

Still, a 20 hour flight to Manila to meet your new son is a heck of a lot different than a 2 hour Funjet to Cancun for snorkeling. Luckily, our flight and the rest of our week was relatively hitchless (except for the huge snoring guy in the window seat). Once through customs, we were met by Ramon, escort extraordinaire: he was our tour guide, shopping consultant, keeper of the itinerary and occasional baby holder. In no time, he got us checked in at our hotel and arranged to take us to the orphanage in the morning.

First encounter: "our first kiss in Manila, at the Shalom Bata Rescue Centre"

In attempting to describe all the emotions bouncing through us during that van ride to Caleb, I think of Jodie Foster in the movie Contact, and that line she says during her trip through the wormhole: "they should have sent a poet." Except I was a poet, but utterly without words. All those months of forms and waiting and more forms and more waiting and expecting the worst and praying for the best and putting the focus of your entire life into a fuzzy 2 x 3 photo – it was so over and so worth it the second we saw our son that first time in that hot, sticky office. It still amazes me I didn’t cry. I always cry. But in that one moment I think we were all so completely terrified, thankful and overwhelmed. We’d probably still be standing there with our eyes wide open and our mouths wide open and our raw hearts wide open if Ate Shirley hadn’t plopped little Caleb into my arms. That instinct I swore I never had kicked in: I was “mom.”

It's been 11 years since. Jack is now 12 (going on 22) but we're still holding each other as tight. Every day since, we give thanks for the luck we have had and continue to have -- despite a speech delay, a stubborn streak that rivals Stonehenge and a new-found belief that his bio father was a Greek God making him a demi-god with some as yet unfound power I better not mess with -- the depth of my love for this pinoy boy is unfathomable.

Cathy and Jack



How has it not? My poor kid will be so freaky deaky mad at me when he is old enough to want to read my poetry. He knows he appears frequently in my work, but I'm a poet who puts it all out there - the good, the bad, the ugly. I documented much of that transition in Sweet Curdle (Marsh River Editions, 2006) but the process of adoption, being an "adoptive" mother, bearing witness to my son's growling emotions about being adopted continues to appear and transition in my work as we transition through life. The poem I share is one of the more recent works, as we now struggle with his desire to know more but not want to know more about his bio parents.




After I enter your birthmother’s name

Google asks if I mean Veronica but

that means truth and purity and I don’t want her

to be either. But when the truth of Veronilla

draws a blank

that paints your brown eyes blank,

I change to yes to search

a thousand Veronicas I know she is not,

to see your face bright as a minted penny.

I want you to find your history in other names,

Jack because god is gracious,

Caleb moved to the middle to keep you

       grounded by faith,

the missionaries bright meadow and determined,

your social workers honey bee and lively,

our chaperone, Ramon, a wise protector,

       how he rose early for us and saved his wife’s life,

       how he tells of you who watched over her.

You should know the irony of Cathryn meaning virginal,

you should know there are two fathers and this one is a rock,

but you don’t care yet how babies get here, only what happens after,

why some are left like broken toys,

if some get passed again, like sour milk or baseball cards.

I could search a thousand names and not find

the answer, so I shift your weight

and Google Espiritu, show you she is your Spirit

in every language,

meaning this woman as essence,

meaning this woman as courage,

meaning this name as guardian angel, as fire.



Cathryn Cofell is the author of five chapbooks including Kamikaze Commotion (Parallel Press). Additional poems and essays can be found in places like North American Review, New York Quarterly, Oranges & Sardines and Women. She is currently performing her poems with the musical duo Obvious Dog from their CD called Lip, and serving on the advisory board for Verse Wisconsin. More at www.cathryncofell.com.


Monday, January 2, 2012



My experience with adoption was not that of a naive teenager. I was 27 when I became pregnant, while seeking to open myself out to new people and new ways of life, and to stop war in Viet Nam, during the late-1960s antiwar movement in Berkeley, California. This was a time of hope and change, and there was no shame to being pregnant--to the contrary, though there was fear, of course, to be pregnant and alone.

I came to great new self-esteem in recognition of my love for others, in this time, and the loves and hopes of those days are now twined in my soul. But I did not yet understand that a woman alone can indeed raise her child, and, believing this for his sake, gave my child for adoption by--this, so many of us believed--a couple who would be nearly perfect parents.

And then to go on, "as if." Just like the Movement's "as if"---to make a better world by acting as if this is present and possible.

Only, he wasn't with me.

But he was out there.

Many years later, I had another child, and raised him on my own.

And many years after that, on the cusp of another war (this time, on Iraq--the first such war), the agency sent a letter--rather vague and formal--noting I had, when he was 18, sent a letter indicating I would be interested to meet him if he came searching. Enclosed with their note was a "waiver form" and explanation "waiver forms signed and notarized by each party is necessary before identifying information can. . ." There was no statement as to why they were writing at this moment.

So I went all over town searching for a notary, signed and got notarized the form, mailed it, and waited. And after that, piece by piece, the colors came back into my world. And he did, my first son.

And he was, and is, whole---intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, and achieving what he seeks in love and in his work. Responsive and a joy. For him, the adoption experience had worked---has worked wonderfully. (This does not mean I'd support a woman giving up her child; I usually would not; but I do think sometimes it can work well.)



For the first weeks of our reunion, I could not do poetry, I could barely speak, I could barely listen to music, I was--and my son was--in a state of love and vulnerability, and gratitude, thankfulness, beyond words, beyond joy. Slowly music came back, and then words. I wrote a poem to him, a poem I've shared only with him. Slowly I began to write other poems again; these were, for the first year or two of reunion, only about him. I published some of these, in Chain of Life, in the Touched by Adoption anthology, in NeoVictorian/Cochlea, and so on. And I wrote a soon-award-winning, multi-published essay, "God's Eyes," of those years of the Movement and giving up my son, that I needed to write (it's on www.highlightscommunications.com --go to the "writings" page and then to "essay"). Now there have been many years of reunion, and I write of many other things, but our reunion stays, often, in my works, whether poetry or prose. My new, debut novel, The Rescuer's Path (Plain View Press, 2012), though in the first half the tale of love between a Holocaust survivor's daughter and a fugitive, half-Arab antiwar activist, tells in the second part of their birth-daughter's search and eventual reunion.

The image that is the frontispiece for Paula Friedman's new novel, The Rescuer's Path -- in this image, the young, slightly pregnant woman is based on a photo of Paula when she was young.



I am attaching a couple of poems written in the months immediately after our reunion

OtherWhen/Now, or the lost language country

“Dark pool of night, black”
       in France swamped by old sorrow
I did not understand
This emptiness drained unexplained
tears tantrum grey as exile years
Parisian murs
from rue to rue, still clinging to
some old love
cramped, unfilling
as the carps’ dulled milling,
cold, in Fontainebleu’s
stone pools.

The empty well
too deep to peek
though I knew, carrying you
pale clearest blue,
there in the heart of the soul
reaching to
the mothering love
for everyone, from every one “but first
a man, and only then a child”;
I did not understand

until again I held you,

whom the waters seek,
the emptied womb.

Dancing the reel

“and when there’s dancing in the streets”
I wrote, beneath the silkshot god’s-eye glowing
in the early East Bay sunlight, 1968,
“then yes, / O people people! I’ll be there,
I’ll be there, on my wooden heart,
though you are gone”—for I had
lost my love and sought him
while the watchmen at the gates
of Selma, Stop the Draft Week, Port Chicago,
Oakland, Peoples Park, Empiyryr
smote me; I had sought
new ways of lovin’
(too soon /gone);
meanwhile, in Vietnam
the people died and
We must save them, heart cried
Save them, Save them, and for lovin’
I found new
and gave new and
oh-baby oh my baby
—my own baby,
gave him, gave you,
Oh I gave him, gave my baby

              Gone the years,
gone the moment next
he found me, this son grown,
so early jay-song spring

              Next, years,
years further
              On to autumn, one November
              dark with evening,
and my second son, long-distance,
       hiking down ol’ Berkeley, cellphoned
“Mom—hey Mom,
hey Mom, there’s people out here watching on TV,”
says, “the election,” says
“some man is making a speech.”
“Uh. . .McCain.”
“He’s giving up?” I stood, receiver to
my ear, here on the fourth, fifth
step upon my little cabin’s handbuilt stairs,
quite shaky, out in Oregon;
“Mom? he’s conceding.” And we
laughed laughed laughed,
behind his cellphone hearing
cheers cheers cheers.
              And when I told my older son,
my birthson, baby the beloved
of my heart,
              “Oh yes it’s real,” he posted
from the Mission District, sent a digi-film; I see
the people drumming, strumming, listen to
the “Ó-ba-ma,” the “Ó-ba-ma”
of new hopes, channeled but
the emperor’s toppling, ph’raoh gone down
beneath our risin’ wave, the last the first
       (—march on
       /your creaking knees /to see
       at last to see—)

But is it real?
Look at the real,
no movie now—you see, we knew it then,
already then, must make a revolution on our own it won’t
be handed to us—we must
occupy our own births, love’s birth
every time, O people
people, dancing in the streets



Paula Friedman is the reunited birthmother of one son and the once-Welfare mother of a second son. A published novelist, short-story author, and poet, she has received Pushcart Prize nominations, New Millenium Writing, Red/Green Press, Oregon State Poetry Association, Indigo Press, and other awards and honors, and Soapstone and Centrum residencies/fellowships. She has been actiive on adoption reform issues since her first son found her in 1991. Her new novel, The Rescuer's Path (Plain View Press, 2012), is a political love story of a Holocaust survivor's daughter who, in 1971, aids a wounded half-Syrian accused in a lethal truck-bombing; it tells of their birth daughter's 2001 search for the truth of her origins, and of the mother and daughter's reunion in the shadows of 9-11.