I spent too much time looking backward, looking into the past, looking into the mirror to frame a dream history of my desires and fears. He called one morning, left a message, “Mother died, more details will follow.” A mother his by birth, mine by legal act. I should have felt stunned anger, I said quietly to myself he’s cocky, has issues, and went about momentary mourning. That is the psyche of the adoptee who was never family, always an adjunct. Later my antediluvian dreams gave way under a torrent of deoxyribonucleic acid rain. She who I imagined in the mirror took name, took shape from and old yearbook, offered a history, a family, a heritage. When I knelt at her grave she told me her story in hushed tones, or was it the breeze in the pines on the hill overlooking the Kanawha? I bid her farewell that day, placed a pebble on her headstone, stroked the cold marble and mourned an untouched mother.
If there were truly justice at least of the poetic sort perhaps Van Gogh could have been born 75 years earlier, and in Vienna not Holland, so that when he decided to be rid of an ear he could have offered it to Beethoven neither of his working in his later years. And if a poet could arrange time travel using his license then he could just as easily have made the ear work for Beethoven. But on second thought, heaven knows what the mighty Ninth Symphony might have sounded like if Beethoven had to listen constantly to the critics.
The ghosts of my birth parents blow into my dreams as so many white sheets torn from the clothesline by gale winds, fly over me, at once angels and vultures carrying off memories created from the clay of surmise and wishful thinking.
I invite their visits, frail branches to which to cling in the storms of growing age, beginnings tenuous anchors to hold against time, knowing the battle cannot be won, but take joy in skirmishes not to be diminished by an ultimate failure I have long come to accept.
You came into my life last week, your name forever locked away inside her mind. My life, she felt, would never be the same and therefore left all thought of you behind. You loved her, I suppose, that summer night then left her, bearing me, until she turned me over for adoption, that she might forget the love that you so quickly spurned. A Jew, she said, but would say little more a father, Portuguese, is all I know, who cast his seed, then left and closed the door and me, the son, he never would see grow. You left her life long before I was born, the father I won’t know but only mourn.
First published in Minison Project, Sonnet Collection Series, Vol. 2, Sept. 2021
I was born the same day, in a much later year as Thornton Wilder, a fact that had no impact at all on my life, since I discovered our common birthday long after my life’s path was half tread.
I read him in my youth, and must admit I can recall nothing of what I read, which I attribute to all that I have read since, and not as any criticism of Wilder’s writing, for his talent is beyond question.
But what was disconcerting was to learn that Nick Hornby was born five years to the day after me and has penned works that I love but cannot hope to equal despite my having lived longer if not more fully than he has.