For Children

Iznara Benoit Kornhauser

Orianne

9th-12th Grade Poetry Winner

When I re-met her I knew she had birthed me
Because her name is my middle name and my parents had always told me
About a faraway land like in my picture books where the sand never gets too hot to walk on and
the sunshine can’t burn you
Where a seventeen year old made a mistake 
and was too Catholic to abort me

When I re-met her I didn’t realize how much we looked alike
With the same rounded cheeks regardless of fluctuating weight
The same slight difference in eye shape from one to the other
The same nose with the rounded tip that always makes me look like a toddler
She’s where I get my height from
Even though when I re-met her I was barely pushing four feet

When I re-met her I didn’t realize that she didn’t have green eyes like me
That the green was from my father
Whom she swore to her family she was too drunk to remember
Her having brown eyes gave me a piece of him
Of the man I want to believe was an irresistible tanned Caribbean God

When I re-met her we were in a restaurant
With a sculpture my mom let me climb on out front
And she joined for the picture
Where her brother (my blood uncle?) sang me
Beauty and the Beast in falsetto
Only to have me ask my mom why he sang so high once we were back at our hotel

I think the whole restaurant clapped?

I think I had ice cream?

When I re-met her I didn’t expect
To spend my adolescent years looking at photos
Of her holding me
Nestled perfectly in her forearm
Forehead to forehead
As she cried
Or that one photo on the sculpture outside the restaurant
Where her arms are around my waist to keep me from falling
Where I’m wearing a flimsy plastic My Little Pony barrette she gave me to hold my bangs back

Nine years went by
And I was told I looked like my mother so often I forgot 
that there was another one I looked like too

Then she tried to have me re-re-meet her
With a nonchalant friending on Facebook
That seemed so casual I had to look through her posts to see if it was actually her

There’s nothing like sitting in a café with the intention of working

Sipping a dirty chai with shaking hands and wide eyes on a laptop screen

As if more open eyes would understand better that I had been stalked?

When I re-re-met her I realized that she had been watching me
For years on social media
Screenshotting photos of me off the internet
Collaging them with photos of the son she had after me
Captioning them “my children”
Posting them for her friends to coo over
As if she still had the authority to claim I was her daughter

When I re-re-met her I didn’t realize
That for the past nine years on my birthday
While I had been on summer break in France
Surrounded by true family
She had been posting poems off the internet about losing children
How her biggest regret was giving me up
How I was really her daughter
And the little boy, Sebastian, who looked like me was her son
Receiving condolences from her friends
That I was stolen from her
As if I had died when I left her in the restaurant

When I finally lost my cool
She tried to convince me
That I had to miss her
I tried to explain
That I didn’t know her
She tried to establish
That we bonded for life
In that moment when we were forehead to forehead
I tried to convince her that I didn’t love her

When I talked to her she kept referring to herself as my mother
To which I explained
That mothers don’t get her easy way out
Mothers are the people that do the hard work
That deal with the terrible twos and twelves
My diagnosis of chronic pain at age six
Running up the stairs to make sure I wasn’t in pain for the past ten years
Even if I haven’t cried out for medication and just want someone to be there

When I asked her to stop contacting me
She sent me audio messages wishing me a merry Christmas
Where her son’s toddler voice rolled the r in my name
In a way that no one ever has
Since he’s only seen it written

When I told her she was making me not want to contact her when I was older
Her broken English stung me
With how my harsh demands that she delete the collages had hurt her
How she thought it wasn’t actually me writing the “grown up words”
How she thought it was my mother on the other end of my cell phone
How it would be better if she talked to my parents about it all

When she said that she didn’t realize that I hadn’t been able to tell my parents
It felt like I was cheating on them
With someone whose motives were more to steal me back and win
Than to actually get to know me
It was as if my mother couldn't know that when I left Orianne in the restaurant
She stayed with me
My mother couldn’t know that I cried to those photographs when she upset me
And wondered if I’d feel less claustrophobic on an island with salt air

When I talked to her I didn’t realize
That she was too far gone to reason with
I didn’t realize she was ill
Living in a fairytale in a faraway land like in my picture books with beaches and sunshine

When I talked to her I didn’t realize
She is a woman who is haunted 
by someone who isn’t dead