The National American History Museum is located at 1300 Constitution Ave NW Washington, DC. A big thanks to Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao and Scott Lay for pointing this out to me. I'm delighted to see this poem included because it reflects part of the amazing diversity of those adopted from abroad, and the poem also calls to attention the Secret War for Laos, and its consequences, among other things.
The poem was originally featured in the anthology Outsiders Within, edited by Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparaha, and Sun Yung Shin from South End Press in 2006.
Here's the poem in its entirety:
Father, you will be pleased to know the guillotine
stopped falling on heads in France
in the year I was born,
after just one last
fellow, whose name I cannot find,
nor his crime.
I have not looked
very hard into the matter-
Curiosity is one thing,
Morbidity is another.
Father, I saw you in the shadow of my mirrors:
an elusive memory, known only through my mother,
described as “widow of ___” after signing
those papers releasing me for adoption by the
like a paper bird.
And I know you by features 'widow of' and I do not
Those jungles are distant assassins of my identity.
I cannot lift the leaves of that last tree that held you
to curse their poor arboreal
nursing. It would change nothing.
Accusations are futile.
Your last words are lost, my father,
and I would never have understood them anyway.
I can not put you to rest. I cannot pronounce our family
You are just bones among bones that cannot get up.
You are a smile gleaming, white
as wax melting
scattered and dusting
the mountains of our ancestors.
In your wake, I rise with the most
delicate of freedoms...