I am a child of ghosts, my parents
adopted and birth, all visit me,
but only in my dreams, for ghosts
prefer the reality that dreams allow.
Some say that dreams are not real,
but they live in the mind as do
every other reality I experience
each day, my senses merely
inexact lenses for the mind.
Perhaps dreams are more accurate,
a deeper reality in the end,
for they arise without passing
through the lenses of the senses,
whole and complete, and as quickly gone.
I am a child of ghosts, and I
will eventually join them,
haunting the dreams of others.
The cemetery is a place of monologues,
family histories laid bare, admissions,
secrets long kept hidden finally revealed
You must listen carefully, for the voices
speak only in hushed tones,
befitting both place and circumstance.
There is no dialog, no riposte, no
response for in this place, that
would be put of place, censorious,
Thy are respectful, one speaking,
a pause, then the next, and time
seems meaningless to them, the tale
is all that still matters, and matters deeply.
Pause, if you will, and learn, but say
nothing for we dare not speak
ill of the dead.
My mother wanted to tell me
of my great-grandmother,
a woman she barely knew,
but who she imagined more fully
that life itself
would ever have allowed.
History, in her hands
was malleable, you could
shape it in ways never happened.
She wanted to tell me
but she knew that
her grandmother wouldn’t approve
of adopting when your womb
was perfectly serviceable,
certainly not for a man
more than a decade older
who could not uphold
his most sacred obligation.
She wanted to tell me,
but I am adopted
and this woman can be
no more than a story
of passing relevance to me.
There is a statue of William Penn
atop the city hall in Philadelphia
seeming to stare down over the city
with bronze eyes incapable of seeing.
Hagar wandered the wilderness
after she was evicted by Abraham
at Sarah’s urging, the price
of jealousy, with bread and water
and the promise of a great nation.
It is pure speculation whether
Hagar was enslaved and freed
or, as we would claim it today,
employed by the family. In the end
the distinction matters little.
Penn remains blind atop the building
Hagar and Ishmael are long dead,
and Jefferson likely had children
with one of his slaves, or so
the DNA evidence indicates.
I am of Norwegian and Scottish
patrilineal heritage it appears
though my great nation is
a six year old girl and
almost three year old boy.
They were always almost mythological,
heroes of a people I could only
imagine as my own, knowing I came
from a far different place, one
of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside
villages, the beaches of Cascais.
It was half a lie, but I couldn’t
know it then, couldn’t guess
my dream was reality, my reality
a dream torn away by DNA.
In a moment my unknown Portuguese
father was unborn, replaced
by a faceless man of Celtic
soil who marched to the piper
highland or uillean, the bodhran,
who stood alongside Pearse
and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie,
and a century on, I’ll lift
a pint of Guinness in their honor,
take a wee dram of Talisker
and whisper Slainte to
the unknown generations
that brought me here.
Tonight I will again
walk through my dream
scrapbook re-creating you.
For a bit longer, at least, I
have full creative expression
knowing now that you died
six years ago, never married.
I will search from
the carefully or inadvertently
dropped clue, your obituary,
bits and facts that could
never have come from the
adoption file, beacons
however faint that will
lead me into the harbor
of my true identity.
But for now I can imagine you
sitting in a corner at
the singles dance, looking
as your sisters pleaded
for a nice young man, long
past being fussy.
It didn’t take much
for him to sweep you
away, at least for
that one evening, away
from the teletype keyboard,
away from the cramped apartment.
I do wonder if your brother
finished college, was at
the same one you left
when the war made money tight.
I can fashion all of these things
into an ever shifting mural
of my own life, but soon enough
I will search, and with some luck
will find our shared name.
I may never see your face
save in the mirror or
the eyes of my granddaughter,
but in her smile, in the smile
of your grandson, I know
you better than you
could ever have imagined.
She likes to tell him that he
came from a small village in Lithuania.
He prefers to remind her that he
was born in the District of Columbia
which has never been mistaken
for a small village in Lithuania,
although he knows he could find
several who speak Lithuanian there.
And, he points out to her, that would
only be half the story, for he is certain
the father he has never met
never set foot, genetic or actual,
anywhere in Lithuania.
Still, in his dreams, he can sit
with the grandfather he never met
and they will converse in Lithuanian.