Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Idea of Ancestry II

Institutionalization can be debilitating.
I have friends who can’t leave because
they have grown so accustomed to the system.
Some, like Frank, I can still visit
because he remembers me inside.
My children call him uncle
because the myth of brotherhood
is hard to let die when it is the only thing.

Just six months out of the home
and in jail, Frank laughs and reminds me
that it is the other way around. That
he couldn’t wait to get out but out
was too big and in was more like home.
He asks me to bring pictures of the kids,
the ones we took on the 4th,
sweating on the lawn in shorts and grins
weary from play, wanting to know when cool
dark independence would come.
It is a good thing that I strove to succeed
Whose picture would keep my cell company otherwise?

I hear on the news today about eugenics
and I refrain from thinking about it until
it assaults me in print and on my desktop.
How many thousands of women forced to
forego progeny: I think of auctions and boys
clinging tearfully to mama’s skirts,
her wailing and gnashing, pleading mercy
Lord, have mercy;
and someone else’s definition of mercy
that saved her thus from a pagan life.

I call the home and ask for records
offered and refused before.
I can no longer believe my fantasy of bootstraps.
I want my mama, I want a brother,
I want roots.
Two weeks later a manila envelope
brings clinically detached news;
the words run ashamedly from my eyes,
down my cheeks.

My wife, Kendall reads:
Name: Samuel Jacobs
Mother: Harriet
Father: Samuel Ward
Date of Birth: 6 June 1968
Notes: Mother admitted to hospital in Winston-Salem complaining of severe
headache and dyspepsia, approx. 8 ½ mo. pregnant. Not married to father, father
serving overseas. Attempted termination of pregnancy, but mother entered stressed-induced labor and delivered. Cause of headaches, etc. appears to be malnutrition, as the mother is emaciated, though all internal organs seem perfectly healthy. Performed full hysterectomy to fix the problem. Child remanded over to the care of the N. C. Home for Boys…

Twin springs of my hope and tears
cauterized in my mother’s belly.

Twin springs of my hopes and fear
cauterized in my mother’s womb.

Spring 2005

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