Category Archives: literature

“Fable” –a poem by Louise Glück

Though the poem, “Fable” by Louise Glück is not meant to be about adoption,  it resonated with me nonetheless. But not in the way you might think. Not pitting adoptive mother against birth mother. For me, it cracked open the suffering of the two daughters, which might be an element in an adoption reunion story (though this is not the real-life situation the poet is most likely drawing on from her own childhood.) The pull of loss and grief is strong in this poem, deep and primal. A piece of the story perhaps for many in the world of adoption.
Judgemnt of Solomon by Raphael(1)

A Fable

Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women,
but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go
empty-handed. He
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
women, one
renounced her share:
this was
the sign, the lesson.
you saw your mother
torn between two daughters:
what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy
yourself—she would know
who was the rightful child,
the one who couldn’t bear
to divide the mother.

Birthmothers in Literature

I’ve been fascinated by birthmothers in literature ever since my mother read me Rumplestiltskin. Although the miller’s daughter escaped relinquishing her son in the end, the possibility of separating mother and child was the part of the tale I found most frightening. It was a close call for the miller’s daughter and her son.

It was the summer between high school and college that I read Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex–the same summer that I gave up my firstborn son. All of Oedipus’s troubles began because his mother gave him away, I thought. What will happen to my boy? As a theater student, I found more adoption stories in Shakespeare–A Winter’s Tale, Pericles, and Cybeline– and in the novels of Charles Dickens.

Currently I’m reading Nicole Krauss’s new novel, Great House. It’s a complex story with several threads. The character of Lotte is somewhat of a mystery with a tragic past. Her husband does not know how tragic, exactly.
“She struggled with her sadness, but tried to conceal it, to divide it into smaller and smaller parts and scatter these in places she thought no one would find them. But often I did–with time I learned where to look–and tried to fit them together. It pained me that she felt she couldn’t come to me with it, but I knew it would hurt her more to know that I’d uncovered what she hadn’t intended me to find. In some fundamental way I think she objected to being known.”  

Later in the marriage, Lotte develops dementia (she’s about seventy-five by then,) and one day escapes from the nurse who is supposed to be tending her at home. Lotte goes into the courthouse, finds a magistrate, and tells her that she’d like to report a crime.  
“”What is the crime?” she asked. 
“I gave up my child,” Lotte announced.”