So, my book, A Personal History of the Lost and Found, is coming out. It’s been on pre-order, and will be available to ship very soon. I got word from my editor that last minute things are being sorted—like dealing with cover image quality on matte vs. glossy. It’s really nice to work with a press that gives so much attention to detail, listens to the authors, and is passionate about supporting work like mine that doesn’t necessarily fit in any one literary or art-world box.
With the release of this book, I find there is a huge release of emotions, too. Before my book had a title, or even a collective order, I knew its content was confessional. My experience of the confessional poet is cliché. Because my academic focus was on fiction, I have a much more narrow handle on poets doing the confessional thing, and a much more limited perspective about how this works and what it is doing in the contemporary sense.
But regardless, the content is autobiographical, wrestling with serious battles that I had little outlet for during a period of my life. Nestled in the comforting folds of poetry, it was a good way to be a bit coy and mysterious about a personal hell I’d been living.
And even when I decided to do the thing of sending my poems and illustrations into the world, I didn’t plan to share the personal story that largely fueled the sorrowful themes of life and motherhood and conflicting sides of humanity.
I see now, that to some degree, my transparency is mandatory for my voice as an artist. Sharing the personal is not necessary, but I feel that—for me—it is necessary as a personal action. The challenges I’ve faced have been a big part of how my creative and artistic identity has developed in the past few years.
These challenges are also why I am conflicted about Mother’s Day. Motherhood itself is a tricky subject for me. Mother’s Day is a cut-and-dry presentation of normalized assumptions of “perfect mothers” and their wonderful, healthy, living and adoring children. Mother’s Day rarely considers mothers who have lost a child—to death or some other horrible ordeal. What if a woman’s child is missing? Or what if her child is temporarily displaced or separated from her because of adverse circumstances beyond her control?
As I write this, I know there are a thousand variations of the “mother” role that I’m not addressing, that can’t be so easily defined or described. And I know that for me, my story is complicated. I am the mother of two, but am only able to actively mother one of these two.
My oldest, by circumstances that began as “complicated” three years ago, has now been out of my legal custody for three years. The “complicated” factor has only multiplied since then, and while I fear judging remarks or raised eyebrows that speculate, I feel like a part of me is suffocating by shutting out the story and largely hiding it. My eldest is one of the main subjects of A Personal History of the Lost and Found. Our story is difficult to explain, hard to personally process, and remains a confusing path toward reunion.
I refuse to hash out details or specifics; it is not the business of my audience, and I’m not obligated to share the heart-wrenching events I’ve endured in the past few years. What I can say, on the behalf of myself and many others who may be enduring a difficult story: mothers and their children come in all sorts of circumstance, unruly packaging, confusing landscapes of the maternal maps of life on earth.
The daughter with me daily is closer to me physically. I can celebrate her milestones and achievements in real-time, hug her tight and kiss her boo-boos. But with every hug and kiss I give her, a part of me is crying out to be reunited with my other child. And if I could, I would. The thing of the world we live in—so bent on protecting children and acting in their best interests—is that sometimes, there are stories caught in the abyss, lives that are not so easily sorted and solved.
When people ask of my youngest, “Is this your first?” I find myself increasingly wary of the conversation. There is no easy explanation, and there is no easy way to tell our story. It certainly isn’t a happy one.
It’s a tricky narrative of motherhood and humanness, and I’ve not decided what best way to approach it. I know some will disagree with my sharing this. And some readers may speculate (likely negatively), and I know I’ve probably left a lot of readers’ questions unanswered—and piqued more questions. But that is okay. It is, after all, my own narrative to write. And write it, I will.