They were 10, going for 33
two months to twelve years,
none with the necessary paperwork:
Baptists (Americans) accused
of trafficking babies, Haiti's streets
still re-forming as earth-burped mountains
tumbled like the children themselves
cartwheeling earlier that day. I've been
thinking how I will choose which one
I may give — probably my youngest.
Imagine pulling toys from garbage
same as the corpses left unmarked
by other than memory and you begin
to understand how a mother might
as the bus scoots for the Dominican
border, the promise of extended holiday
a vision stretching into time travel
for every child whose name is ever written
on pink tape, the ink not indelible.
The instinct to swoop in and rescue
may be a natural impulse but it cannot
be the solution. An eight-year-old in flight
could look forward to summer camp;
her parents might not come to claim her.
A laborer with seven to support insists
he'd like one of them to go. He means on
the cargo plane, everything fixed
with connections: a teddy bear, games,
warm clothes, woolly socks, shoes,
biscuits, a milk bottle, passport, visa,
the receivers' arms spread wide like wings,
their practiced embrace in a holding pattern.
© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas
It was estimated in 2007, long before the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, that the number of orphans on the island exceeded 380,000. Since the earthquake, which took the lives of several hundred thousand Haitians, that number surely has increased. Most children described as orphans are not housed in licensed establishments. Almost 500 were evacuated to the United States in the days and months immediately following the earthquake. As recently as December 2010, a plane took more than 100 orphaned Haitian children to France; another brought 54 to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, part of an airlift to give the children a "fresh start". These numbers do not begin to help us understand the plight of the youngest survivors who are also the most vulnerable, both within and without the country.
This poem is inspired by the efforts of a group of 10 American Baptists to spirit 33 Haitian children, at least 10 not orphans, out of the country; those efforts resulted in arrests of those deemed to have "kidnapped" the children for "illegal trafficking" for overseas adoptions. The two italicized quotes in the poem are taken directly from news articles in which Haitian parents spoke about giving up their children so that they could have a better life. A post I wrote about "relinquished" children is here.
I wrote this poem in response to the Random Acts of Poetry prompt at The High Calling. The prompt is to write an orphan-related poem; it may be a poem to or in honor of an orphan.