Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Undressing

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The book said to wait
to undress you, your clothes
the one thing you had left,
so after they handed you
to me, red-faced, screaming,
Anna-when-you-were-still-ZhuZhu,
little pearl, little Michelin Man,
swaddled in layers of leggings and sweaters
because the Chinese like to keep
the wind from their babies,
although the air hung still in Wuhan that day,
late March, my arms bare in shirtsleeves
and you arching away from me.
The book said to wait to undress you,
three beads of sweat stood up
on the sweet bridge of your nose,
but I waited all afternoon
to unbutton your jacket. I waited
until after I'd brought you back
to the Hotel Shangri-La,
fed you Cheerios, rolled a yellow ball
across the expanse of king-sized bed.
You smiled, and so it began.
I peeled off the purple silk jacket,
lined with blue hearts and mended
under the left arm, the pink wool cardigan,
the red padded vest, the yellow and green
striped sweater, a stitch dropped by the collar,
three pairs of split pant leggings,
the tiger-face slippers
your foster mother put on your feet
because dressing you for the last time
that morning she must have
wished you both strength,
the soaked paper diaper tied around your waist
with red string.


Alison Seevak’s poetry and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Sun, Adoptive Families, Many Mountains Moving, and The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. She lives in Northern California with her seven-year-old daughter.


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Lovely, evocative, moving. Thank you for this beautiful poem.
AMAZING! Thank you for sharing that. I always wonder about the people who love the children even when they know they will find homes somewhere else. Beautiful ending.
Beautiful.
Beautiful poem. I've adopted three children from China and your words made me recall our "gotcha" days and all of the anxiety--just trying so hard to do everything right.
So tender and sweet, this brought tears to my eyes and yet hope in my heart.
Such a beautiful, treasured moments for new mothers: dressing and undressing children; I loved the sweet details, colors and happiness woven throughout. So lovely!
Your poem brought back memories of meeting our Freya. Memories of excitement, nervousness, love, and sadness for those who would grieve her leaving. Brought tears to my eyes too. Nice!
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