Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Red Tape (Poem)

Red Tape

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. 

I also offer this poem for One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry


Vicki Munn said...

a beautifully written poem...thank you for the background information on these children too...

L.L. Barkat said...

The complexity and poignancy overwhelms.

This especially...

"the receivers' arms spread wide like wings,/their practiced embrace in a holding pattern."

S. Etole said...

how can we begin to understand ...

jen revved said...

Distinctive and intense-- so glad you tackled this-- not easy. One thing that occurs to me that showing one child against this backdrop could also have great impact. xxxj

repressedsoul said...

It's cruel how in a short space of time we forget. Thankyou for penning this wonderful reminder of the forgotten people

Brian Miller said...

all too real...have a friend that has worked in an orphanage over there since before the devastation...

hedgewitch said...

I think it's difficult for us here to comprehend the kind of horror these children(and their parents) have faced, and the indifference of the world to their fate is just one facet of it. I remember this story when it was in the news, but I know the story is far from over. Good work reviving it here.

dustus said...

Found your poem incredibly well written, moving, and in my case, didactic. Thanks for posting this one, Maureen. I had no idea.

Timoteo said...

How poignant, Maureen...I always felt that their intentions were honorable.

signed...bkm said...

Powerful writing, Maureen that directs more thought on the balance of intention between giving and taking....bkm

M.L. Gallagher said...

I think that is the hardest part -- we cannot understand.

Nor can we judge.

Hugs -- powerful writing my freind. Very powerful.

Terresa said...

What a chilling, beautiful poem. The backstory provides insight as well, a story that I'm afraid, may be more common than we think.

Justine said...

As I read your poem a few times, each area had distinctive scenario and with those scenarios came areas with emotion and being able to visualize that experience and feel that mother having to think and choose which child she was going to let go. Lines 16, 17 &18 were beautiful. What also makes this poem strong is that it holds truth to a reality of individuals.
Thank you for sharing

kenny said...

Ummm. Stepped back abit, away from my life, and thought a little about others...

kenny said...

well written, thought about it.

Glynn said...

I read this, I understand what it's about, and I am undone.

monicasharman said...

This part got me:
"tumbled like the children themselves
cartwheeling earlier that day"

Valerie said...

Regardless of the inciting event and the guilt or innocence of the Baptists, some good images here that shed light on a terrible situation. God help them all if no one else will.

David K Wheeler said...

Wonderful. Can't wait to read your book!

Beachanny said...

This breaks my heart and leaves me inextricably sad. Your words, always so precise, carving truth out of a mire of "facts", this week hits with exceptional power.

Kavita said...

A tight read!!! Heartrending to the core!! The things people do...and the things people are forced to do.. (sigh)

At the end of the day, they make it all look like just a matter of demand and supply... forgetting that it's living beings we are talking about here!

Very well written, M!!!

Pete Marshall said...

the poem was a glorious testament to your ability to write about these subjects and bring them to our attention...very disturbing but well rendered..cheers pete

autumnraven said...

Moving. So often laws seem to hurt victims more than anything.

Claudia said...

wow - this was such intense writing maureen, i'm deeply touched

Steve Isaak said...

Effective, spare work. Intuitive, intense.