Pre-Adoption: The Original Birth Certificate

…we will begin our story
with the word and
—Lisel Mueller

Maybe it’s not surprising
that an old piece of paper
in an old yellow envelope
that I have never opened
should weigh so heavily,
even after many years.

It contains, after all, the beginning,
or continuation, really, of my story,
its words typed in the script
of an old Smith-Corona:
the name of my small Ohio town, a hospital, a date,
and names of strangers I have never known:
    one young mother
    one young father
    one April child.
    The barest facts.

That April child, that given-away girl—
who lives on in official state records
with her own name and her own parents—
became my shadowy twin,
following me wherever I go,
to this day, invading my thoughts,
whispering her riddles, hiding her secrets.

I know scarcely anything about the doppelganger
who carries my DNA but not my name,
who existed as a single soul for only ten days
when a second birth certificate was issued,
the one I use to prove who I am.
On that tenth day she became my partner by default.

If I were to open the old envelope
and study its contents,
what then happens to the me
I always thought I was?
In that instant, would my twin and I
carelessly change the past, present, and future?
Reality can be slippery that way.

Susan Gundlach has published articles on topics ranging from family history and puppetry, to the Great Wall of China and the Nile River. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Dark Matter, The Middle Gray, Lingerpost, and in the walkway of the Evanston Public Library—etched in stone, or cement, actually. Her work can also be seen in The Best of Vine Leaves 2012, and in Cricket magazine, which features some of her children’s poems. Currently, she is working on collaborations with artist and musician colleagues. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her family, human and canine.

More from Gundlach in 1.4 here