Monthly Archive for August, 2010

I Fell Into My Baby’s Eyes & Prod*i*gy

Poems by Rebecca Kinzie Bastian

I Fell Into My Baby’s Eyes

I know it sounds ridiculous, but the sun
was shining through their marine.
They opened, lapping a little
in the light, and I threw myself, or maybe
I just fell, into that single blue layered
over warmth. There was no end
to the milk in that color,
no end to the dreaming flutter
that still had not forgotten
the swish of the underwater
heart, and beyond it, the rush
of the stars, the clanging blood,
so much more than the word comfort
can hold in its shifting. And just the way
a prism turning in the sun throws
colors across the room, through
my pages, over the pillow, into my empty
cup, I fell into the color of a newborn’s remembering,
tumbled under the force, losing the cynical
breath I forgot how to hold.

 

prod•i•gy

I have given up small pleasures for this
new darling, for the loop of his fingers
around the metal spine of my page.
I have turned away the clear heart of vodka.
I have bent myself.
Small cups of chocolate swallowed alone
have been exchanged for blue
milk in my breasts, the press of his hands.
Cognition grows bubbles
and pops, vapor against my freckled knees.
I smooth the buttons on my dress, straighten the corners
of my voice, turn the knobs of my laughter.
Have I forgotten the purpose of my songs-
the simple angles of their meter,
their twilight curlicues?

Rebecca Kinzie Bastian’s work appears in a number of journals, most recently Rhino, Pax Americana, Coal Hill Review, Pebble Lake Review and Frostwriting, with poems forthcoming from American Poetry Journal. She was the 2007 Bread Loaf Margaret Bridgman Scholar, and shortlisted for The Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press. Born and raised in Sweden, she holds an MFA from Vermont College, and currently works as an editor and copywriter in Pennsylvania. Tania Pryputniewicz’s interview with Rebecca, “Suspended in Midair: Infants, Graduate School, and Wild Swans” can be read on Tania’s SheWrites blog.

Masters of Sex

Book Review by Jessica Powers

 

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

By Thomas Maier, Basic Books, 2009

 

When Virginia Johnson retired to a nursing home in relative obscurity in 2002, some people wondered about her fate. How was it she had dropped off the face of the earth? Why hadn’t she received the recognition she deserved? “Where were the 1970s feminists and the sexually confident professional woman of Generation X….[who] owed a debt to her more than they knew” (371)? The “sexually confident professional woman of Generation X” describes me but I’ll admit, until I read the book, I had no idea who Virginia Johnson was—or how much influence she and her partner William Masters had had on the world in which I grew up. Though the sexual revolution of the 1960s might have occurred without Masters and Johnson, it was their research into the physiology of sex—far more than any studies conducted by Alfred Kinsey—that gave Americans the ability to talk about sex knowledgably and scientifically and openly.

 

In Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, Thomas Maier has provided us with a comprehensive biography of the couple who spent several decades together researching and writing about sex. The book encompasses both their personal and professional lives, exploring a central key question: How was it that William Masters and Virginia Johnson—whose research spawned a radically new, successful approach to sex therapy, and which did more to change America’s public perception of sex—could fail so miserably in their personal love lives, both with others and, ultimately, with each other?

 

In the early days, much of Virginia Johnson and Bill Masters’s research was conducted privately. Because they were using machines and video cameras to literally observe hundreds and thousands of men and women having sex and masturbating, they knew that their project would be shut down if the truth emerged. Carefully, systematically, and dogmatically, they recorded what they discovered. The result was one of the most influential books of the 20th century, Human Sexual Response, which catalogued everything they had discovered about human sexuality. “Masters and Johnson’s mechanical approach, rooted in the American reverence for science, made their book palatable to a tongue-tied nation,” argues Maier, suggesting that their work was a seminal influence in the sexual revolution. “Specific sexual information suddenly became part of the standard fare for newspapers, magazines, and television talk shows, which recognized the audience appeal for this sex talk involving Masters and Johnson” (174).

 

The book launched their careers as sex therapists. If Bill Masters was the scientific steamroller behind the sex studies, Virginia Johnson pioneered their therapeutical approach to sexual dysfunction. By pairing a team of therapists—a man and a woman—to help married couples reach sexual satisfaction, she created a “totally innovative” and highly successful method for curing problems from erectile dysfunction to premature ejaculation to lack of female orgasm (178). In addition to providing standard sexual therapy, the pair experimented with sexual surrogates—a highly controversial method that, at some point, they publicly disavowed, even while continuing to secretly use it.

 

For many years, Masters and Johnson rode at the height of success. But their 1978 book on homosexuality—in which they claimed they had successfully cured several homosexuals and transformed their gay orientation into a heterosexual one—and then their book on AIDS in the 1980s, which went against conventional wisdom, changed public perception of the pair. Their personal relationship—for many years, a professional one with “benefits,” as the saying goes, which ultimately morphed into marriage when Masters worried that Johnson was planning to get married and leave their partnership—foundered as their professional reputations publicly soured. Masters reconnected with the first woman he had loved, divorced Johnson, and married for the third time, this time happily. Masters and Johnson kept a happy public face in terms of their professional relationship, but secretly, Johnson grew bitter over the way she had been treated throughout the partnership but especially after their divorce. Furthermore, though they should have made millions, they had never achieved the financial success that their fame could have led to.

 

Though detailed and lengthy (375 pages), Masters of Sex remains interesting from start to finish. Maier has written a book that not only explores the psychological and professional lives of America’s most famous sex duo, but also reveals the changing American landscape in its response to human sexuality.

 

Jessica Powers is the editor of The Fertile Source. Her first novel, The Confessional (Knopf, 2007), explored racial tension and violence on the U.S. Mexico Border, while her second novel, This Thing Called the Future (Cinco Puntos Press, forthcoming April 2011) explores South Africa and AIDS. She is also the editor of Labor Pains and Birth Stories: Essays on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Becoming a Parent.

Missing Children, Helen Todd: My Birthname, A Coconut for Katerina, Children

Poems by Sandra McPherson

 

Missing Children

 “She wouldn’t choose me,” my adopting mother mourned

as if that were a judgment call

an infant could make,

 

intaking information,

christening it evidence, milk or not,

then not being able to name, for months,

 

the nurse, the nipple.  Now,

weanling, teen, ultimately matron,

I choose compassion

 

for the barren,

praying, collegiate wife. 

Mother, by name.

 

*** 

 

“The missing boy

was last seen by their car”-

not what the detective meant.  Beside the car,

 

by the mother,

whatever the child was looking

away from.  With a bucket,

 

toward a thicket.

 

Helen Todd: My Birthname

 

They did not come to claim you back,

To make me Helen again. Mother

Watched the dry, hot streets in case they came.

This is how she found a tortoise

Crossing between cars and saved it.

It’s how she knew roof-rats raised families.

In the palmtree heads. But they didn’t come-

It’s almost forty years.

 

I went to them. And now I know

Our name, quiet one. I believe you

Would have stayed in trigonometry and taken up

The harp. Math soothed you; music

Made you bold; and science, completely

Understanding. Wouldn’t you have collected,

Curated, in your adolescence, Mother Lode

Pyrites out of pity for their semblance

To gold? And three-leaf clovers to search

For some shy differences between them?

 

Knowing you myself at last-it seems you’d cut

Death in half and double everlasting life,

Quiet person named as a formality

At birth. I was not born. Only you were.

 

A Coconut for Katerina

 

Inside the coconut is Katerina’s baby. The coconut’s hair, like

        Katerina’s brown hair.

Like an auctioneer Katerina holds the coconut, Katerina in her

        dark fur coat

covering winter’s baby, feet in the snow. Katerina’s baby is the

        milk

and will not be drinking it.

 

Ropes hanging down from the trees-are they well ropes? Ropes

       on a moss

wall. Not to ring bells but used for climbing up and down

or pulling, I mean bringing. Anchor ropes on which succulent ropy

       seaplants grow.

 

And floating like a bucket of oak or like a light wooden dory,

        the coconut bobs,

creaking slowly, like a piling or a telephone pole with wet wires

downed by a thunderstorm over its face.

 

This baby’s head, this dog’s head, this dangerous acorn is the

        grocer

of a sky-borne grocery store where the white-aproned grocer or

        doctor imprints it

with three shady fingerprints, three flat abysses the ropes will

        not cross.

 

What of it? There is enough business for tightrope walkers in

        this jungle.

The colonizers make a clearing

for a three-cornered complex of gas stations, lit with a milky

        spotlight

at night.

 

              And here we dedicate this coconut to Katerina. We

        put our hand

on the round stomach of Katerina. We put our five short ropes

     of fingers on the lost

baby of Katerina and haul it in to the light of day and wash

        it with sand.

 

Coconut, you reverse of the eye, the brown iris in white, the

        white center

in brown sees so differently. The exposed fibrous iris,

the sphere on which memory or recognizing must have latitude

        and longitude

to be moored

 

or preserved in the big sky, the sea’s tug of war. The tugging of

        water

held in and not clear. Lappings and gurglings of living hollows

        half filled,

half with room

for more empty and hopeful boats and their sails.

 

Children

 She will run to you for love whoever

you are, you who’d forgotten what you look like.

She keeps a book of forms in her arms,

like a fitter exact on waists.

 

And perhaps I’ll have to pull her from

celebrating her birth between your legs

although she is my only child

and good at it and best of all the children

 

you don’t have. You know her face

can’t be yours. But let me become a stranger,

not act myself, beat on the mirror and cry-

she sees I look like her alone.

 

And sticking her face in mine, smearing my

lipstick with her index finger, igniting

the pale mustache, drawing the seeing mirror

of her glasses down oil

 

on my cheeks, she hangs my picture

forever in her head. So that she always

sees to me when I am down

and thinks the way to raise me is

 

to climb aboard me toe for toe, palm

lidding palm so I can’t withdraw

or go out of our single mind

to have another child.

 

“Missing Children” originally appeared in print in Austria.
“Helen Todd: My Birthname” appeared originally in Patron Happiness, Ecco Press, 1979
“A Coconut for Katerina” appeared originally in The Year of Our Birth, Ecco Press, 1973
“Children” appeared originally in The Spaces Between Birds, Wesleyan University Press, 1996
Poetry editor Tania Pryputniewicz interviewed Sandra McPherson about these poems on She Writes. Please check it out here.
Recently retired after 23 years on faculty at the University of California, Davis, Sandra McPherson studied at the University of Washington with David Wagoner and Elizabeth Bishop. McPherson taught for four years in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was Holloway Lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, and conducted several years of classes for the Oregon Writers Workshop/Pacific Northwest College of Art.  In 1999 she founded Swan Scythe Press, a poetry chapbook publishing venture (www.swanscythe.com) with 26 chapbooks in print under McPherson’s direction and two newly forthcoming under Jim DenBoer’s direction.
McPherson’s honors and awards include three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Guggenheim fellowship, two Ingram Merrill grants, an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and letters, and a nomination for the National Book Award.  She was featured on the Bill Moyers television series The Language of Life. Her volumes of poetry include: Expectation Days, University of Illinois Press, 2007, A Visit to Civilization, Wesleyan/University Press of New England, 2002, Beauty in Use, Janus Press, 1997, Edge Effect: Trails and Portrayals, Wesleyan/University Press of New England, 1996, The Spaces Between Birds: Mother/Daughter Poems 1967-1995, Wesleyan/University Press of New England, 1996, The God of Indeterminacy, U of Illinois, 1993, Streamers, Ecco, 1988, Patron Happiness, Ecco, 1983, The Year of Our Birth, Ecco, 1978, Radiation, Ecco, 1973, Elegies for the Hot Season, Indiana University Press, 1970; reprinted by Ecco, 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to my beautiful daughter, Ana Lucia

Nonfiction by Gretchen M. Packer

December 13, 2007 

Dear Ana Lucia,

Hi my sweet girl!  It’s been an exceptionally busy day and every ounce of my being is exhausted.  I just changed you, gave you your pacha, sang an off-key lullaby to you and put you down in your crib.  I’m beat.

Still, I am compelled to write because this day was a monumental one in your life.  For that matter, in my life as well.  I want you to read this knowing it was written today, the day I first laid eyes on your birth mom. And the day your birth mom first laid eyes on me, your Mom.  I hope when you read this, many years from now, my words will convey the enormity of today’s events and the undeniable fact that you are much loved, Ana Lu. 

This was the day I met your birth mother.  Wow.  I.  Met. Your. Birth. Mother. Today. 

Ana Lu, I can tell you with absolute confidence that your birth mom loves you more than you will ever be able to imagine.  I saw it.  I saw it in her eyes, read it on her face and felt it in my heart; she loves you immensely.  Love that only a birth mother can know.
 
I want to start by explaining to you that it’s not typical for the birth mother and adoptive mother to meet.  Typically, the adoptive mother remains in the States while all of this is transpiring.  When you were three months old, I relocated to Guatemala.  I wanted to witness your first roll, the first time you clapped your hands, your first steps. I couldn’t leave you in the orphanage.  I wanted you to know what it felt like to be held while you drank from a bottle so you could feel the warmth of my body next to yours.  I wanted you to hear me sing lullabies to you so you could hear what love sounds like. I wanted to look into your eyes so our hearts could speak to one another.  You are special.  You were not just one of many children in an orphanage.  You have never been forgotten.  You are my baby girl and I needed to be with you.  So one day I was a seemingly normal adoptive parent enjoying pictures of you via the Internet in the safety of my own home.  And the next day I quit my job, packed up my bags, assured your father this was the right thing to do, hugged my friends goodbye and moved to Guatemala.

I moved here about a month ago, to a country thousands of miles away from the familiarity of home, for an undetermined length of time, so I could raise you.  Now I wake up to those delightful little dimples of yours every day. Love that only an adoptive mother can know.

Guatemala is still recovering from a bloody civil war.  It has an astonishingly high crime and murder rate and it is not uncommon to walk down the street and see people carrying guns, being mugged or street fights. Many things here are foreign to me-a country with different laws, a different language, an unfamiliar currency-to name a few.  Before I relocated here, I had never spoken more than 200 words in Spanish.  I had never heard of a Quetzal.  I had never lived without a car.  I had never been the racial minority.  I had never been a mother, much less a single mother.  I was scared when I first moved here.  And the truth is, sometimes I am still scared.  Yet, I will continue to embrace it all to be here with you.  Love that only an adoptive mother can know.

How did your birth mom and I meet?  The Guatemalan government requires any child placed for adoption be brought to a health clinic for mandatory DNA testing.  The clinic performs the test and then takes a picture of the child and birth mother together.  While the health clinic we went to today is nearby where you and I are staying, it is important for you to know that it was not easy for your birth mother to get here.  Here in Guatemala life is much more demanding.  Your birth mom had to take a day off from work, which put her at risk of losing her job.  Bosses frown upon special requests, and this was a special request.  In Guatemala, jobs are scarce and workers are plentiful.  So your birth mother risked losing her job coming to the health clinic today.  Love that only a birth mother can know.

Your birth mom also had to arrange a ride to and from the clinic.  She drove 3 hours from rural Guatemala to the city, waited 2 hours in the clinic, met your adoptive mother and then drove three hours back to her home.  She did all of this for you.  She went through this entire process and consequently heart wrenching experience so that she could place you “officially” for adoption.  So that you could begin your life with your adoptive parents and have all the opportunities living in the United States has to offer.  Love that only a birth mother can know.

Your birth mother and I traveled far for you, Ana Lucia.  And your Papa has as well.  Right now your Papa is living in the States.  He is working to support our family so that I could come to Guatemala to raise you until the adoption paperwork is finalized.  You just saw your Papa for Thanksgiving; he will be back in a few weeks at Christmastime; and then he will visit us every other month for a two-week period for the next four months.  Thanks to modern technology, we can call him via the computer nearly every day; we can see him, and he can see us.  It’s so fun watching him watch you!  He watches in complete awe as you show him your newest trick, rolling from front to back.  And although we are so fortunate to have this technology, I can see in his eyes and hear in the catch of his breath how much it pains him to be separated from us, but it is what has to be for now. 

I digress.  This morning, intimidated and self-conscious about meeting your birth mom, I was comforted by the feel of you nuzzled against me in the Baby Bjorn I was carrying you in.  The health clinic was filled with Latina woman.  Half of the women are birth mothers and the other half are the foster mothers bringing the infants they are fostering to be DNA tested. It’s very rare to have an adoptive mother here at the clinic so mine was the only white face in the crowd.  It was such a great experience for me to sit there, as the minority.  I had to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Interesting, huh?  I distinctly remember thinking this is how minorities must feel all the time.  I wonder if this is how you’ll feel as you grow up.  And I wonder if you’ll talk to me about it.  I hope you do. I will do my best to ensure you have Latina role models in your life that you can talk to about such things, but sometimes I worry that may not be enough.

Not being fluent in Spanish sometimes makes things very difficult for me when we go out in public.  I will take Spanish classes once I’m here for another month or so, when I feel more settled.  I plan to speak Spanish to you in the States because it’s really important to me that you grow up bilingual.  But of course that means I have to master it myself first! However, today, there at the clinic, high school Spanish is all I had.  It is what it is, so I spent most of the day nodding and walking in whatever direction someone pointed me. 

I had seen your birth mom in pictures so when she showed up I knew it was her.  She wore a denim skirt with a white top and her hair was pulled back in a scrunchie.  There was a woman alongside your birth mom.  At first glance I thought she was a taxi driver, but after seeing them together it was obvious she knew your mother pretty well.  Having this other woman there was a blessing because she was very outgoing. The woman motioned to your birth mom to sit two chairs down from me and she sat between us.  Your birth mom didn’t make any eye contact with me.

I know your birth mom and her friend were talking about me, but I had no idea what they were saying.  Shortly afterward, her friend turned to me and while gesturing toward your birth mom said, “Ella es pobre.” (She is poor.)  Then she said, “Ella no tiene dinero. Es porque no nena.” (“She does not have any money.  That is why no baby girl.”)  I believe your birth mom had asked her to try and explain to me why she placed you for adoption.

I had you out of the Bjorn and cradled in my arms.  I lifted you upward while looking at your birth mom’s friend in my wordless attempt to ask if your birth mom would like to hold you.  I asked your birth mom’s friend because your birth mom was very shy and was not comfortable making eye contact with me.  Her friend asked but your birth mother declined, looking at her hands.  Perhaps she felt strange holding you in front of me.  I waited a few heavy, awkward minutes, glanced over at your birth mom, and again invited her to hold you.  She declined.  After a few minutes your birth mother looked to her friend and nodded.  She was ready.  So I passed you over to your birth mom’s arms.  At first you fussed, but when she bounced you, you quickly settled and then got cozy in her arms.  Your birth mom looked at you with such intensity, soaking in every aspect of your beautiful face and holding your hand in hers while stroking your little fingers.  That is when you looked your birth mom in the eyes and blessed her with an enormous smile.  Enormous smile!  You are just so beautiful and when you smile, Ana Lu, you light up inside.  That light is contagious to all of us who are fortunate enough to bask in your rays of sunshine.

Your birth mom was visibly comforted.  There was an audible sigh of relief as if it was the first time she breathed since setting foot in the clinic. I saw her soul change.  She was no longer apprehensive or picking at her hands in shameful fretting.  She saw your smile and she was now content. 

She needed you to tell her you love her.  She needed you to tell her you will understand why she placed you for adoption.  Your smile communicated all of that.  And let me tell you, my sweet girl, usually you make us work for your smile.  But today it was as if you knew, as if you knew that your birth mom would have peace in her heart if she could just see you smile.  You’ve always been an “old soul,” Ana Lu.

As you became more comfortable in her arms and she more comfortable holding you, her embrace became tighter and tighter.  I watched as she ran her finger gingerly over the cleft in your chin, your beautiful chin that looks just like hers.  Then she cuddled you into her chest, put her head down and wept.  I watched as your birth mom held you and hugged you one last time.  The pain in her heart ran strong.  It was clear she was savoring these last moments she would see and hold her daughter.  Love that only a birth mother can know.

I felt the pull toward her injured heart.  It was as if an enormous magnet pulled me toward her pain.  I could feel only a part of that pain she was feeling, but was left crippled for hours.  I will never be able to imagine the enormity of the pain she felt today.  Nor the pain she will feel years from now when she knows it’s your birthday and she wonders where you are and what you’re up to.  Just a glimpse of the inherent everlasting pain of a mother placing her child for adoption left me sobbing uncontrollably tonight after we got home.  I cannot begin to imagine the wound left in your birth mother’s heart today after she got home.  Love that only a birth mother can know.

There was a moment when I truly thought I should get up and walk out of the clinic.  I had an overwhelming visceral response to the pain that I sensed among all of the birth mothers in that office.  I felt tremendous guilt for having opportunities that your birth mom and the other birth moms in that room never had.  All because I was born in the United States and they were born in Guatemala.  What an injustice!  I felt dirty and ashamed.  I just don’t understand why we all can’t have the same opportunities.  Ugh.  There I sat in my prim white skirt, black top with matching shoes and you in the Baby Bjorn.  The Bjorn is $120 and while could easily be one months’ pay for many women here in Guatemala.  I had the urge to stand up and convey my respect to this room full of women with tortured, grief-stricken expressions on their faces.  Ana Lu, I wanted more than anything-from a place deep, deep within my soul-to give my sincerest apology to them, to your birth mother, because I am blessed with opportunities.  I thought about running around the room and giving one woman my earrings so she could feed her family for two weeks, giving another woman my sweater so she could feed her family for eight weeks.  I wanted to give away everything.  My necklace, my clothes, my shoes, the baby carrier, anything I had in my pockets until I stood there naked, shedding the skin I felt so dirty in.  The skin that made me feel unworthy of sitting in this room among some of God’s strongest souls.  I wanted to be naked.  I felt I needed to be naked so I could feel an ounce of the vulnerability that I know birth moms feel; the vulnerability as a mother placing her child up for adoption; the vulnerability as a citizen being judged and persecuted by society for the choices she has made; and the intense vulnerability as a woman living in a male dominated culture where it would not be uncommon for them to have to walk this torturous walk again.  I thought if I could give them all that I had, if I bared my body and my soul then maybe they would forgive me for being gifted opportunities that they never knew. 

Maybe if I sent each birth mother in the room enough money to feed, clothe and get medical support for all of the children in that room, maybe I could spread some of the fruitful opportunity I’ve been so fortunate to receive.  Maybe their lives would be different, maybe your birth mom could feel the joy in caring for you that I relish every single day we’re together.  My heart was torn, a primitive response, to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  My heart ached from the weight of the conflicting moral battle going back and forth in my mind.  I was losing clarity.  I did not know what was right and what was wrong; nor what was destiny and what was irony.  My mind started rapidly cycling through the possibilities, equally rational and irrational.  I want to care for these women and children!  But I don’t have the resources to care for all of these women and children!  But I cannot benefit from such an injustice! But I need to find a way to make things right! But I cannot change the world!  But she’s my daughter and I will not let her go!

And there we have it.

All of my confusion and doubt melted away within seconds as reality pierced my heart like the ease of a hot knife slicing through cool butter. In the end, I cannot change the world.  In the end, you are my daughter and I will not let you go.  Clarity arrived.  As did Destiny.  I whispered repeatedly to myself, “But she’s my daughter and I will not let her go.  But she is my daughter and I will not let her go.”  I reflected on the fact that there are many children in need of loving families and there are many families in need of loving children.  But you-you, Ana Lucia Packer-are my daughter and I will not let you go.  For everyone who wins, someone loses.  And I will have to learn to live with that.  Love that only an adoptive mother can know.

I sulked, sitting silently and cowardly in my chair with my head bowed and tears streaming down my face.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed that the women in that room, especially your birth mom, could feel the tremendous respect in my heart and that they would know that I sat there, humbled by their selflessness and their fortitude.

I prayed to maintain a healthy perspective of you and your birth mom’s future relationship.  I felt many emotions when looking at your birth mom-reverence, gratitude, sorrow, guilt and at times, even jealousy.  I wanted to be her.  I wanted to be your biological mother so that you would know how deeply and truly you are loved.  So that you would never, ever doubt my unconditional love for you.  So that I too would have a chin cleft, beautiful brown skin and speak Spanish fluently.  I fantasized that you were 5 years old and we’d look into the mirror together and I would proudly exclaim, “Mira!  Tienes que de mi!” (“Look!  You got that from me!”).  We’d giggle as we played with one another’s hair and sang songs in Spanish together.  I love you with all of my being and sometimes I just think maybe if you looked more like me you would never ever question my love and devotion.  You would always know that you are my daughter even though when you look at me you see my blue eyes and fair skin staring back at you.  Love that only an adoptive mother can know.

After all the tests were run we took a taxi back to the hotel.  As I sat with you nestled against my chest and kissed your sweet little dark peach-fuzzed head, we were peaceful and content.  I pushed my nose against your head and took a deep breath.  I inhaled your sweet baby smell and giggled.  Then a couple of teardrops fell.  Filled to the brim with gratitude they dropped down upon your little head as I thanked God for choosing me, a completely imperfect person to be your mother.  Love that only an adoptive mother can know.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the driver was watching us in the rearview mirror.  When we arrived at the hotel he stopped the car, put his hand on the headrest of the passenger side, turned around and unequivocally declared, “You will be a good mother.” Those six words, from his prophetic heart coupled with his peaceful tone, sent a surge of relief to my core. 

I am sobbing again.  It’s time for me to change into my PJs and call it a day.  I’d like to leave you with one last thought.  Please know, Ana Lu, know that since the day you were born you’ve received love, an unconditional sacrificial love, that some will never, ever know.  You’re cherished, you’re adored, you’re treasured, you’re celebrated.  And my goodness, my sweet Ana Lucia, you are loved. 

Love that only a birth mother and an adoptive mother can know.

Gretchen Packer relocated to Guatemala in November 2007 to raise her adoptive daughter, Ana Lucia. After living together in Guatemala for 13 months, Ana Lucia and Gretchen moved home to the States on December 21st 2008 to join Gretchen’s husband.  Although they miss Guatemala dearly, Ana Lu is happy to be home with her Papa. Gretchen Packer is a Pediatric Nurse and a freelance writer. She lives in Redwood City, California with her husband and daughter.

Puberty’s Monologue

a poem by Lauren Schmidt

At some point in my sleep last night,
three scabbed avatars approached me with a filet
of skin, holding it like a coat, coaxed my slither into it.
My sock-inside-out body-bones and blood,

muscles, tendons, organs, guts-were comfortable
like extreme freezing: so cold the mind’s
confused, misfires burning instead. I thought best
to listen to the witches, slipped into this rag

of skin, my ragdoll next-of-kin. They zipped me in,
sprinkled me with rosemary, fireflies, and thyme,
blew my eyes shut until twilight. I woke swatting
at the batwings of bad dreams gasping What do you mean

this is not the last I’ll do this?  Which brings me to now.
Slouched on my bed, my hands like frenzied fish, slither
down my legs, my knee pumps in a race with the wings of bees.
For now, this is my posture: head, neck, shoulders bent

intro a bow whose looks sling with arrows. My face
flagged with the only thing I hold in myself: the time
my neighbor caught my legs in a handstand,
without intention, pulled my pants down as I crashed,

flat-backed to the ground. He looked at the tight bud
between my legs the way we inspected that wasp nest
before we ran screaming. The swarm inside me is all I hear

in my head, the arias of just-with-blood mothers,
laden with woman’s honey. Babies bunched tightly
in their wombs wait for breath, the first jab of light
that stings them to existence. There’s a girl coiled inside me,

I know. Trapped in the dark thatch between my legs,
pinned like a butterfly in the wingspan of hips.
She doesn’t remember who she is. But I feel her
throb: an open bone, a leaky, bloody breast.

Lauren Schmidt’s work may be found or is forthcoming in The Progressive, New York Quarterly, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Ruminate, Ekphrasis Journal, Wicked Alice and others. Her poems have been selected as finalists for the 2008 and 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, the 2009 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and her poem “Once Upon an Emergency Exit Row” was awarded first place in the 2009 So to Speak Poetry Prize named for a journal out of George Mason University. In December 2009, Lauren’s poetry was nominated for the AWP Intro to Journals Project as well.

Tania, our poetry editor, has published an interview with Lauren on her She Writes blog.




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