Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Alien Children"

This will be short today. I am about to go to a lit festival and claim my prize for a poem called "Mingle-Tongue." I wrote this piece a long time ago, when my aunt was undergoing medical tests and things looked gloomy for her. My aunts helped raise me, and my relationship with my niece is strong. I wonder if anyone has looked long and hard at these "collateral" relationships among women. If I remember rightly, in Celtic culture boys were often raised by their maternal uncles. This strengthened the clan. We know the longitudinal effect of grandparents raising or helping to raise children, and that was also true in my case. But I do wonder about other families where the aunts and uncles take on important roles. My uncles too were a great factor in my childhood as my father was largely absent, having remarried and had a raft of kids, with no real room for me.

I think about what I call the Cleaver Myth, that kids grow up in an intact nuclear family and Mom wears a dress and pearls at breakfast. I don't buy it. I think the majority of kids have some disruption in that structure. Maybe that's why so many of my stories involve lost or found or abandoned kids. I just finished one titled "My Alien Children." I love the story and will send it out soon. Here's the first paragraph:

The children are in the park again on Saturday afternoon, all thin, with smooth mocha skin, high cheek bones, pointed chins, short dark hair, and eyes with very white sclera and variously colored irises, some yellow, some blue, green, or brown. And I think, "Oh, there are more of them today." Nine of them, their names are Ana, the tallest girl, Kat, Rho, Leah, and Sim, these seated on the bottom step fo several cut into the side of a small hill to my left. On the other side of the path four play in the dirt with small, brightly colored dolls. The children's skin is so smooth that dirt doesn't cling to them. These are Lin, Su, Jac, and Sum. I like these children. Cannot call them kids. They have too much dignity for such a casual label. If I were to ask where they came from or how they happen to be in the park, I know that each one would have a different story. They are not only alien to me, but to each other. I've never seen their parents. Ana seems to watch out for the smaller ones. At sunset they leave, single file, with Ana leading. I'd like to follow, but have no right to satisfy my curiosity.

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