I found my family thirty years after
the end of a secret Southeast Asian war.
People always ask, “How did it feel?”
They hate replies that include sci-fi,
old Thai ghosts, a monk who longed to be
a poet’s father so badly he lied.
Reunions are worth seeking, but like Oedipus,
it’s a roll of shaved dice in a comedy of strangers.
As a teen I didn’t dare date Asians,
fearing we were siblings.
After finding my family, I learned the gulf was too wide
to stay with someone from the same place.
Still, I got a poem to read at the Olympics
about a sacred ancestral peak that I once crossed.
Yesterday I saw a picture posted online of a new child,
another adoptee welcomed into the world, certainly related.
Another was announcing their latest divorce.
The word processor tries to convince me “adoptees” is a typo,
while I remember a woman who told me indignantly
you can’t adopt babies from Laos. Period.
For a hot second I didn’t exist, or I was a liar.
One niece has a deported father who escaped the Killing Fields.
Point blank she asked me over Christmas dinner
why I keep coming as if I belong. She’s four.
I think of a baby of mine, aborted.
A journal about grinding up stones.
A poet who turned their back on me because
one night beneath our weretiger moon
I said their writing was universal, but bloodless.
Next up in the portfolio: “Behold and Forbid Them Not: Notes of an Adoptee” by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
Bryan Thao Worra was adopted in 1973 by an American pilot flying in Laos. Thao Worra is the author of over nine books of poetry on the Lao American diaspora, and has published in more than a hundred publications, including Poetry, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, AGNI, London Ghetto Poets, Defenestration, National Geographic’s Poetry of the U.S., Asian American Literary Review, and Harvard Asian American Policy Review. For six years he served as president of the international Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and he represented the nation of Laos during the London 2012 Summer Olympics Poetry Parnassus. The first Lao American to receive an NEA Fellowship in poetry, he has presented at the Library of Congress, Poets House, Kearny Street Workshop, the Singapore Writers Festival, and the Smithsonian. (updated 10/2023)