As I mentioned in my last post, I’m taking great care in reading Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology). Last time I talked about Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston’s essay, “Discovering My Imposed Age & the Effects of the Institutionalization of Perpetual Childhood.” The second piece in the book is a lyric poem. As a poet, it thrilled me to find such excellent poetry collected alongside essays.
The poem is “Everyone Loves An Orphan,” and it was written by Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut, a Korean adoptee. According to her website, her bio (there is also one in the back of the book) looks like this:
I am a poet, scholar and teacher who teaches creative writing and college composition in Los Angeles. As a Korean-American adoptee, my creative and scholarly work reflect an ongoing interest to explore the emotional and historical aspects of the Korean diaspora as well as transnational adoption. Previously, I collaborated on avante-garde music and art projects with composers and visual artists. I have advanced degrees in poetry, (M.F.A. degree in poetry, 2002 and M.A. in Literature, 2010) and a Ph.D. degree in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California (2012). My first book of poetry, Magnetic Refrain, was published in February 2013 by Kaya Press. I am currently completing a second book, lyrical and narrative poems Until Qualified For Pearl and a non-fiction critical book about adoption narratives in literature and film.
The premise, if you will, of “Everyone Loves An Orphan” is the story is of an orphaned child “born from a field of weeds / they later called lilies.” She learns to fantasize a story about her origins. Questions–such as was her mother the mistress of a married man, did her mother work in a garment factory, and so on–came to her, but eventually she discovers that a deception surrounds her very origins–that she wasn’t an orphan at all.
The child was adopted by a family in a strange land.
. . . you’ll learn
another language. In your sleep,
you’re already talking
to yourself, filling in
the rest of the story.
Once upon a time,
there lived a family . . .
Notice that the poem is written in 2nd person (you, rather than I or she). I believe this creates a distance that almost frames the story, thus drawing focus. It creates the illusion of objectivity, but increases the poignancy.
This poem isn’t a simple display of emotion, but a complex and beautifully written exploration that forces the reader to think and feel more deeply about what it means for a child to grow up with lies and secrets.