Posts Tagged ‘adoption’


Seizure: being grabbed and tossed to the ground.  In an instant, I became a bucking horse, forgiven everything except this moment. In exchange for a mouthful of blackened bacon sweating grease, here is a chaser of carpet and the hail of a table’s debris.  It is unusual, to say the least, to awaken face down on a  carpet, having been mounted by electrical shocks and rendered, pardon me, dumb and empty and useless.  A man with a need for sugar and grease is of no use to anyone except the doctor or the mortician.  My morning trip to Farmer’s market cost me a leg on the coffee table that my legs violent thrashing kicked off.  The table showered me with a coffee mug, an ashtray, my laptop, half bottle of lemon water, a nail file.  The tremors stopped even as my head continued spinning and I got up off the floor disoriented like I’d had a years’ worth of sleep in a handful of seconds.  I surveyed my body from head to toe — what the hell am I doing here / what exactly just happened.  I got up from the floor, surprised by the sudden newness of everything.  I took aspirin, then unplugged the power strip from the wall seeing how the desk lamp had broken its neck and all bottles of liquid had spilled into a wet outline haloed around me.  After dropping the aspirin, I needed to lay down again immediately.  I couldn’t make the couch and chose the closest floor.  Have you ever been confused by your own body?  I was confused by more than that.  I looked across the terrain of the carpet.  The broken table, the broken lamp, the scattered ephemera  and the dumb luck of not electrocuting myself, at least.

And then, I looked up at the silent black phone.  Perhaps you would have called any number of friends or family or even an ambulance.  I had no friends or family and the ambulance was a rubber banded roll of money chocked deep down in my throat I couldn’t get up.  In truth, there is a hospital four blocks from my building… but, but, but.  I looked at my phone, useful to me now as a toaster might be, and felt deeply sad.  Right then, I felt sorry for myself.  And I thought back to earlier that morning when I’d gone to the farmer’s market where I bought eggs and the aforementioned bacon which probably led to this absurd afternoons non-delight.  Smirk now as I tell you I walked past a man shoving kale and arugula into a plastic bag and kept walking.  I walked past another man standing in the middle of the flowing wave of shoppers.  He was speaking so loudly into his cell phone it seemed like a performance.  I thought I recognized him … and did.  He is my biological brother.  And as if this might explain anything, I walked past him while he stood blindly screaming: “What?? Should I give up my freedom to do what I…” and I walked past him, unnoticed and stopped listening after losing count of all the “I’s” shoved into his sentence.  He never saw me, unable to see anything except his own issues.  How to say: we are better as strangers than brothers?  More familiar to one another in thought than face to face.  As I walked past, I realized there were no memories I wanted to volley back and forth.  There was nothing I wanted to catch up with.  We emerged from the same biological muck, brothers in the dictionary yet strangers and useless otherwise.  He had sons, a daughter, an ex-wife, plenty.  He wasn’t adopted.  He was wanted.  Somehow it was just me who didn’t match the set.  It was me to whom my “birth mother” said, “lets agree to disagree”, before handing me off like a casserole.  I walked past him and bought cookies at a booth two tables down.  I preferred sugar and the kind smile of a stranger vending baked goods and fresh pasta.

I didn’t think of my biological brother again until later that afternoon when I found myself on the floor, table broken, dishes scattered across the floor in an awful tableau.   From my vantage point, I couldn’t think of a single name to call.  The only thing I thought of was him shouting into his phone and with that, my body flattened against the rug.  Depending upon him, I’d be good as dead.  The spilled items agitated me.  I pushed myself up, stumbled to the couch and waited.  I lay on my back and listened to my body.  Adrenaline is gasoline burning clean beneath my topsoil of skin.  My heart thumped even down to my fingertips.  I was glad to feel anything.  I spoke to myself, not a prayer, but how you’d test a microphone, and I sounded okay.  I flexed my toes.  Whenever a wave of thought whitecapped I breathed slowly until it smoothed out.  I watched the adrenaline burn and turn from red to orange to blue and then ease.  The day outside was so pretty and so bright and so useless.  I reached for my phone to make a doctor’s appointment then realized the next open slot was more than a week later.  Once I could move comfortably, I called medical services to expedite my appointment.  The woman-operator on the phone cheerily asked What Was Wrong.  I didn’t want to talk to her, I wanted to speak with my doctor.  She asked: It isn’t sexual is it? I used the word Seizure then the word Stroke and then a nurse was connected on the line and quietly urged me to call emergency.  Turns out there is a hospital but four blocks from my front door.  She talked me down from even trying to walk it, alone, especially before knowing what was wrong or whether it would happen again.  She said my appointment couldn’t be changed.  I hung up the phone and stared at the wall, breathing.


Only today did I realize the website Xanga saved my blog entries from 2007. I thought they were gone forever. I’m struggling to save them/upload them/ double check their worth. But since I haven’t posted in a while, I found this and decided to share it. From what I remember, this was me responding to an email my biological sister sent me after I vanished into radio silence. Her email lines are in bold, I responded below on that blog. Of course, I never sent this (what did I send?). I never expected her to read my email, never expected people to read that older blog, and don’t expect anyone to read this one. If you do read this, know that over the last few years, I have learned to let go. I let everything go.


What’s up with U?  No, hear from, NO see. 
          When I stopped hanging around family, my life improved.  I noticed the complex composition of birdcalls.  I lost weight.  I learned to dance.  To enjoy sunlight.  Hadn’t really called because I hadn’t missed you.  You’d failed to give me anything to miss.
Heard U were on the pitty potty, struggling with an identity issue.
            I spent that time weeping, realizing if this is family, I’m fucked.
Well just 2 let U know brother a little about your history.  What ever year U were born,  (if I was good with numbers, would be living N RENO)
                1968.  I won’t hold you to remembering the actual date or anything…. 
Our entire family had moved from Lousiana, Granny, Grandfather, Me, Daisy, Pete, Willie was a baby.  Mom and Dad were the only ones working, struggling 2 provide food and basic esssentials.
                 I met Granny a year before she died.  Small framed, Black with strong Native American features.  Saw her once at the house where she lived in East Oakland, thereafter in the rest home where she stayed until her final days.  She was fascinated by me, I think, because I resembled my father– whom I never met.  He’d died of cancer before I found out I was adopted, and the man I called Father was actually a kind of permanent temp.  Anyways: granny would look at me, reach out for my face as if it were a mirage and call my father’s name, “Henry.  Henry.”  Like me, he was an only child.  Odd how many things connect with the people I was never raised around and never met.
One day Mom, had a baby, it wuZ U, mom worked all the time, nights, weekends, all D time.  Grandfather diagnosed with CANCER and was dying,   When U were born, you were a surprise and had various medical problems. 
                   While watching Rosie bake bread–Rosie, the woman supposed to be my mother– she told me she’d gotten pregnant the year before I was born but the baby died in her womb.  I took residence within her, within that damaged space and apparently was born carrying that child’s debris.  My ‘mother’, Foster Mother I guess, told me I was born needing a hernia operation. 
Ms. Cagney taught school where Mom learned 2 B a beautician, no children and had a lot more going than the situation all of us.  Even though, U had medical problems, Grandfather dying, Mom and Dad working hard to support us, when U suddently came we all wanted to do what ever necessary to accomodate and keep U.  Mom decided that you would have a better life with the Cagney’s.  Basically U don’t know it but U did.  Mom felt guilty, Granny and all of us were hurt that U had 2 live with the Cagney’s.  However, Mom always kept N touch and visited U often.  Even though I didn’t like her decision, I would accompany her on the visits.
                    Why I don’t remember this is a mystery.  My first meeting with Rosie was when I was 19.  She seemed vaguely familiar to me, but so did many of the old women who came thru the house to get their hair done in our kitchen.  I will admit to remembering one time she visited with Avis, I think, whom ten years later turned out to be my sister.  I just remember playing in the backyard with this girl and somehow getting her on the hood of my father’s truck in the backyard and dry humping her, looking up to see these two women come down the stairs.  They asked what I was doing.  I said: Playing family.
I could go on forever, about how hard life wuz for your other siblings and how life wuz growing up extremely poor, living in a four room TIN roof house in Louisiana.
                    Please do.  I love the blues.
I’m saying all this, becuz U need 2 know, that life is short, what ever trip U R on, U need 2 let it go.  U have family, MOM, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts that love U and we would love 2 b a part of your life.  Believe me whatever U R going through, someone has already gone through.
                    I do want to let it go.  You, your mom, your sisters and brothers.  Your children.  Your neices and nephews.  I want to let go that any of this happened.  I want to let go the confusion I had about who’s family I belonged to.  I want to let go the sense of loneliness I feel when I’m around you.  I want to let go everything associated with you.  Were it possible I could remove you from my blood I’d do so happily.
Yes, James unfortunately U do have family.  Even though going through the changes that life puts us through takes us through.  We don’t reach out or communicate as often as we should.
                “Unfortunately I do have a family.”  Unfortunately.  That lack of communication you mention has cost you our relationship.
With work, struggling to keep riding, food on the table, money N yo pocket, and most importantly a roof over yo head with d lights on.
                One of the things I felt was that I’d joined the family much too late.  Now folks have responsibilities and lives.  They don’t need me.  And I’ve been shown how true that is.  I feel how true that is.  My button says: Ask Me How It Feels To Be Unneeded.
I don’t see Mom or the group N Sacramento as often as I should, mostly because I’d rather take a beating than take D drive.
                I’d rather take a beating, too– than seeing you or anyone in Sac..  But neither is really worth it. 
Yo do have issues but we all do and none of us R happy with D way we grew up.  However, you must REMEMBER one of GRANNY’s Say-N’s  “U can’t live N this world alone.”
                 Granny must’ve said that to yawl.  Not me.  All I’ve had was The Alone.
Right now you’re on the PITTY POT.  But u need 2 (LIGIT)  LET IT GO. 
                  I’m letting it and you and all of it go right now.  LIGIT?  ASAP!  LOL!
Even though we don’t call.  Plez know we R always there 4 U. 
                 That… soothes me?
Never get soooo sick and not let anyone know. 
                And who will prepare my funeral?  Will anyone even fry chicken?
Especially if U start seeing Auntie Alma, CALL SOMEBODY.
                Aunt Alma was my favorite and she’s now dead.  I remember three visits with her.  The first was at her house in East Oakland.  When I first met her, I wasn’t sure if it was okay to kiss her.  Was I supposed to?  Is that what folks here did?  I sat at the fireplace, the first one I’d ever interacted with, and while the fire was dying I tossed the smallest twigs on it I saw and she giggled.  Her son, my cousin? whom I thought looked remarkably like me, sat at the dining room table drinking beer from a pitcher.  That was the first time I remember ever thinking I looked like somebody. 
                The second was after she’d moved to Sacramento, blocks away from where Rosie lived.  I was asked to drive her to a few Doctor’s appointments and to the store.  Something I actually enjoyed.  It was good practice for me, driving.  I remember doing as much for my foster mother before she died– though I wished I had a car during my foster mom’s illness.  In Sac I was using Aunt Alma’s car.
                The last time was when she’d been moved into a convelescent home in East Oakland.  I lived in San Francisco at the time and it was a huge commute for me to get there, but I went to see her a few times.  I don’t know if she even knew I was there.  I remember she’d talk in her hazy sick-sleep.  She’d call names of relatives I didn’t know.  Once I panicked and called Rosie to get advice on reaching one of the people she’d called.  But Rosie seemed unconcerned.  I remember wiping Aunt Alma’s face with a rag.  She sweated.  I’d usually stay for an hour, until someone else would show up.  One of her other sisters.  Then, I’d go home.  I thought about those who would never come visit her, those who were afraid of hospitals.  You included, Carol.  I’ve been blessed to’ve never lain in a hospital bed, but because of all the illness I’ve been around from my foster family… Aunt Mary, Cousin Johnny, Aunt Effie, Uncle Abe, Cousin Isaac, Cousin Jimmy, My Grandmother, My Grandfather, My Father, My Mother… I know what it feels like.  To be truly alone with memories and spirits.  You open an eye as if in a dream– look at the foot of the bed and see someone you haven’t seen in years standing there, waiting for you.  I am standing next to you, and I look at the empty space into which you stare deeply and I ask the dust floating there in silence, “What am I supposed to do?” 


My heart felt like a closed fist urgently knocking against my sternum. That’s not a metaphor or bad opening line; its a description. My chest felt knotted and angry. I was angry. There’s a plethora of reasons why. But I’m writing this because of the moment I felt it stop and open.

Earlier this week I went to an open mic, invited there by my friend. I arrived early and she was already posted on one of the couches with her laptop. She was with a man who, once I entered and sat across from them, he rose, finished his sentence and walked out. I took his seat. It was like entering her office. She ran a quick list of what she’d done earlier that day, then dove back into her laptop. I sat across from her and after a while pulled a book out of my backpack.

But not many were here– most of the bodies seemed behind the counter. We talked for a while and I thought maybe nothing else was going to happen. But gradually folks began coming in. This open mic is much more community friendly, much warmer than any other opens I’ve been to. The facilitator is so loving, a perfect rendering of Conscious California, she turns the open into something closer to group therapy and church than just a round-robin of performers. They incorporate projected video and slide shows. An artist walked us through his collection of amazingly detailed paper mache animals. A gay couple celebrated being together 19 years– five of those married– and were given their own cake. The rest of us got tiny cupcakes. A woman played an original instrumental on her guitar. Another woman sang a capella. A professional puppeteer performed.

I was there in order to read one poem– a meditation on the word Sorry.


“I think maybe I’d like to apologize… but who to?” Robert Blake, as Perry, last words before being executed in the film: In Cold Blood.

I was adopted. Which is shorthand for saying: I feel strung between two families, two identities I can do nothing with. The family who raised me have died. The family I belong to by blood, I walked away from feeling I didn’t belong there.

Maybe 10 years after meeting my biological mother, she apologized to me. For birthing me, For what I went through. She did this from her kitchen, me listening to her story while she massaged floured dough for bread. I listened to her story. I don’t remember saying much back.

Told me she was: Sorry
I’d been born
hungry, loveless, kicking like a fish in a bassinet…
A pre-natal hole through my heart
As if her body were rejecting me like a plastic organ

I loved your father, but… She said.

Read: I loved your father except
When it involved you…
She said

Later that weekend, I was home, shaving, staring at myself in the mirror. My mind replaying that conversation. And from somewhere I asked myself: What exactly did that apology change?

Nothing. That sorry worked about as well as the sorry you’d give a group of hungry children at your kitchen table when you walk in empty handed. Sorry. No food today.

“Sorry”, right then, ceased to have meaning for me and became a word I no longer wanted to rely on to fix or change or acknowledge an unintentional error or slight.

I don’t want to mislead you or lie: I’ve apologized to others since that moment, I’ve accepted apologies– including from my birth mother– from others. I don’t hold ill will against anyone more than myself, and on that I’m still working. I apologized to my friends for being a drunken ass. I accepted an apology from my biological neice for publically snubbing me.

But often… even when I’m alone, all I ever feel is Sorry. For being me; being inadequate, not being enough. I feel it as if its a viral infection. And that feeling.. that inadequacy… is a type of anger. A rage against the way things are and a cry for how one wishes they’d be. My heart: A flower so enraged against the rays of sun it won’t open.

I’ve thought about being sorry, about my mother’s apology, for years. Finally, I felt so down, it started dripping out of me in words.


The second time I met my mother
It was like a blind date that wasn’t going to work out

She said she was: Sorry

Don’t look at my other children, She said
Closing her pocket-book. Look at me!
You slipped through my fingers unnoticed
like a seed that grew anyway.

I can’t be your mother, she said.
I can only be Sorry.

I took her hand, and despite it resembling my own, said:

Sorry… I was a missed period.

Sorry How everything in your life ran onward without me…

my mother made life by accident and was Sorry.

You think life belongs
to you until its
wrestled from your helpless arms

What word will be spat off your tongue then?


Poetry is an oral tradition. Every poem begins to live once its launched off the tongue of the poet. All poems must be read aloud and I consider reading a poem to an audience part of the writing, editing process. How people hear/receive the poem, how the words and language flow from your tongue can only be known once you give of yourself and release the poem.

The tension and ache I’d been feeling in my chest in the days before this was almost as if I’d wanted to cough up my half-swallowed heart. I was angry: at myself, at being lonely, at my failed relationships, at my family. All my undifferentiated emotion began to smolder.

I read the poem slow, as if peeling back its layers gently. I felt slightly guilty wanting to read it at all– everyone before me was all positive, all good energy and music. And I wasn’t excited to be catalyst for changing the rooms temperature by being serious. But the room was quiet and leaned towards me. I looked up at the audience and found people were listening and being present.

Beginnings and endings are hard. I feel lucky if a poem leads me to a natural conclusion. I read the poems last line and looked up. All was stillness. Even the traffic on the street outside seemed to pause. So I did too. I met a few eyes and let the silence hang there several seconds. Then I said thank you and got off.

I sat down and two things happened. The first, a woman– not the friend I met– came up behind me and hugged me for a long while. The second thing: my heart felt unraveled. The tightness had loosened. I immediately felt more at ease. Relieved. I finally felt I could take a deep breath without something sticking or awkwardly shifting in my ribcage.

A couple of people came up to me afterwards with hugs, all positive and encouraging in regards to the poem. This is valuable because The Room hears a different version of the poem than I Do.

Writing the poem was healing in itself, but reading it aloud somehow completed the circuit. The woman who hugged me– came in briefly and was gone before I could even thank her.

Moral: Write your truth and read it to witnesses. Give it away. Letting go is the only way to begin healing anything.