What matters?

The first two stanzas here were jotted down eight years ago after being given two small pieces of paper by my orphanage attesting to a) being abandoned on the beach in Dbayeh and b) passing through a convent in Dakwaneh before arriving at the orphanage in Beirut. I have spent eight years examining them, trying to puzzle out the “truth” to my story; my narrative prior to being adopted. Now that I have an understanding of my origins due to DNA testing, and now that I am able to map the tactics of fascist Spain in the 1950s to similar practices here perpetrated by those who named themselves after Franco’s party, the truth comes out of the shadows. I admit I sometimes wish it would not have; that I might not know.

At the same time, I kick myself for not noticing (not wanting to notice) my adoptive name here marked down prior to my adoption. For either I was named previous to my arrival at the orphanage (simultaneous processes of procurement, trafficking, and exporting), or else these papers were created after the fact to obfuscate the crime. In either case, the fabricated construction of my story falls away like dusty cobwebs. And in a way, I might have preferred this mythology, a simple abandonment, with agency limited to one under pressure. Instead, we have a vast network of collaboration, a banal bureaucracy, a conspiracy to destroy a generation of children. This, I remind myself, is the very definition of adoption, so this revelation is true to form: It comes as no surprise.

It comes, all the same, with a psychological price tag. I likewise kick myself for seeking something of the “personal” and “individual” here; a focusing away from the bigger picture of displacement, dispossession, and disinheritance. I force myself to reject this wholesale, for this is a self-soothing falsehood, to be absolutely avoided. It reveals the increasing difficulty of facing the acculturated side of my “razor’s edge”, which still, a century after adoption started and fifty years after my own displacement and disinheritance, wishes that those of us who are anti-adoption (read: pro-justice) would be silent. Or, at the very least, that we might sing a more catchy tune. I dedicate this poem to them.

What manner of world this: of walls, of camps, of wars, of soldiers, of disappearance, of departures; of what creative violence an instant, a decision, a child, an act, a passion, a hate, a desperation, a menace, a grief; a movement and an unleashing, a motion and an untethering, a reeling, a meandered uncording in a walk, a pacing of steps, a strident sojourn, an arrival, a regret; seaside a pause, by water’s edge a moment of such grace that a tiny life might stop and gasp and catch his breath and wait for his fatigued Savior, his camouflaged Samaritan?

And what manner of whom carried that burden, that weight, that swaddled mistake, that non-entity waterside, an unfathomed step, and that pause….That line dividing sand and sea, detritus-ridden ground demarcating land from deep, life from death; and what last-minute reprieve, what gentle landing was granted by a gentile second guess? What grave remorse? What caught, what stuck, what tripped? What voracious waves missed this catch, this devolved, this unraveled; what feeble cry stayed what hand that yet left adrift this one bereft among sweeping sands, swirling sea, of waters borne; and now, enduring efficient officious arms?

And what matter now the story failed, a fable, a tale, taller than folklore, an erasure of traces? Enemy progeny an export, a conversion, a transaction, an expulsion; a slivered life, a splintered soul; to those bereaved, believed twiceborn—thus the twofold stillbirth. The ghost child haunts himself, his phantom life looms large and listless; a lifelong resonance, a place, a return; an innate fear of flags, plastered faces, the fulsome fascismo, the feeble phalanx, the phoenix fouling its nest, the Forces that saw fit to expel, expunge, excise the ones deborn, the children taxed with an additional conditional sin.

And what mannered hand wrote the promissory note, the police report, the affadavit, the bill of transfer, the visa? What diabolical devising imagined the cargo on that beach, that spit of sand, that party office that welcomed that landing of Marines, that invading force, that civil comportment, that Saving Grace? What misstep foretells the falsity, the criminality, the chronicled clue in the passing off, the triangulation, the created proof, the invented evidence, the false name unbestowed? What fly in the ointment reveals the folly; the contrite act compromised by the heralded child, a prefaced infant driven away, the riven giveaway?

And what matter the vague cry, the embargoed charge: “kidnapped!” the reticent truth? The puzzle pieces picture the crime, the scenario, assemble the actors, presage the denouement, the exile. What matter the disbelief, the willed contradiction? The despair, the desire to be disproven, the wait, the distant hope for errancy, the pregnant pause in the play, the missed cue, the Hour of Lead? And yet instead an avalanche, an overload, a falling in place, a clockworks of logic, insensate nonetheless; a staid derangement, a realization that lives so rapt repeat the capture: a looped reel, the eloped, the deduced abduction.

And what matters, this, in the face of reformers, revisers; collaborators, conveyors, conspirators; our condemnation, their indulged corruption? Adoption, the war crime, the spiriting away, the soulless deprivation? What matters the return, the silent sea, the mocking sand, the aloof mountains, unbridgeable distances elided; a voided stead, a broken link, a threadbare coherence? What matters my waning shadow cast at sunset, my screams rising stifled? And what to make of answers to my endless perplexed stares fixed on this vast yet static sea that I once believed my destiny: “Ô Daniel: There is no time. And there is no tide.”


About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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