November Poetry: “The heirloom of womanhood is a brutal crown” by Bethany Carlson

Curated as part of the Adoptee Poetry Folio by Guest Editor Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
November 9, 2017

This November, to recognize and honor National Adoption Awareness Month, I've invited adoptee poet Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello to curate a folio of poems by 10 Asian American adoptees. This page features Bethany Carlson's "The heirloom of womanhood is a brutal crown." I invite you to take a moment to read her moving introduction to the folio here, as well as the other nine poems in this collection.

— Eugenia Leigh, Poetry Editor

The heirloom of womanhood is a brutal crown
          for Heather Heyer, 1985-2017

Post-eclipse, moon shaped calluses
bloom the undersides

of my feet. In August I am most honest
when summer crowns hot, neon

jewel ticking through
yellowing cloudlines. Sweetheart,

you did no wrong: championing a braver
browner America against the glow

of tiki torches and monuments  
to faux patriotism. Lit in this plume

of bravado, black and brown make distinct
your glittering endpoint. But until we are more

than background to accentuate
glistening white death, the stench

of permanent marker overshadows
our anthem to scattered stars. Oh say

can you see, the knees of our sisters
weakened to pastel — fretwork of scars —

the soft indentations they leave
phases of this American moon

by the dawn’s early light
soulful in relief. 


This piece was published as part of the November Adoptee Literature Folio. To see other works from the folio, please visit the table of contents here.


Bethany Carlson

Bethany Carlson is a Korean American adoptee who teaches college writing courses in Connecticut. Her chapbook DIADEM ME was published by Miel Press in 2013.