on the night my internationally adopted son arrived
After we picked you up at the Omaha airport,
we clamped you into a new car seat
and listened to you yowl
beneath the streetlights of Nebraska.
Our hotel suite was plump with toys,
ready, we hoped, to soothe you into America.
But for a solid hour you watched the door,
shrieking, Umma, the Korean word for mother.
Once or twice you glanced back at us
and, in this netherworld where a door home
had slammed shut forever, your terrified eyes
paced between the past and the future.
Umma, you screamed. Umma!
But your foster mother back in Seoul never appeared.
Your new mother and I lay on the bed,
cooing your birth name,
until, at last, you collapsed into our arms.
In time, even terror must yield to sleep.
Sometimes, when you’re sleeping,
and the furnace purrs against winter,
I wonder if we did the right thing,
taking you away from Korea.
At the heart of every adoption
is a ripping, a knifepoint, a breaking apart,
like cracking open an oyster.
When you snore at midnight,
I think of your other possible lives
with a family in Stockholm or London.
You could have been raised near the sea,
or at the foot of a volcano.
But instead, you got us.
Did we do the right thing,
importing you to the other side of the world,
bringing you to the prairie and the ice?
As your bones push into the future,
and the netting of your heart widens,
you will jigsaw these truths into a mirror.
Your family past, so unknown, will make you
feel snapped. Broken.
But until then, I have to tell you
how much I love playing hide-and-seek,
how you run into a bedroom, looking
for me under a quilt,
in a wardrobe,
how you peek into a closet,
searching here and there for your father.
And when you find me,
it is like a lock clicking open.
Today, the truth is just child’s play—
all you have to do is count to ten,
and open your eyes.
“Again,” you shout. “Again!”
And so I hide. I wait in the dark,
like an easy answer.
When He is an Old Man
Long after my body has been turned into ash,
and his own children have walked into middle-age,
they will eventually gather around his hospital bed.
My son, an old man with papery skin,
will be hooked up to an octopus of machines.
Tubes will push fluid into his body—
his ribcage will rise and fall. His heart will blip.
He might be scared, but also content
with the arc and burn of his life.
I will stand at the foot of his bed
just as I did when he was a baby,
watching him breathe.
As nurses rush in for his final moments,
I’d like to put my cool hand on his cheek,
and whisper into his ear that his daddy still loves him.
If there is another life, I’ll be waiting for him
just as I did at the Omaha airport when we first met.
I’ll be the one craning my neck at the new arrivals,
waving my hands like crazy, ecstatic at last
to welcome him home.
Copyright © Patrick Hicks 2014