Theory of Abandonment

Here’s the quote now made famous in
the Disney movie: “Ohana means family;
and family means nobody gets left behind
or forgotten.” And no matter how cheesy,
I can’t erase it from my head, nor

the moment when the alien adoptee
recreates in the child’s bedroom
the scene, to frightening scale, where
Godzilla stomps through San Francisco,
terrorizing the people, chewing up cars,

tossing suspension bridge pilings aside
like so many pretzel sticks. And of course
he doesn’t know he’s only acting out
what some psychologists have called
the Theory of Abandonment: how,

given the trauma of neglect,
emotional or physical detachment,
the psyche responds with fear
or lashes out in rage especially
when the sphere of the intimate

comes to bear down again to make
its complicated claims on him. All
I can think of is how in my ohana
(so close in sound to the Filipino
tahanan) circumstances have made it

so that I’ve physically left my children behind
enough times—for school, for work, to build
a new life and relationships— I wonder if I’m not
the sole cause of their own difficulties whenever
that sad, dark beast comes down from its lair

to rampage through their lives. At such
times I can’t see, blind through my own griefs,
but to follow in their wake: holding out my arms
even as I step sideways through the pile of broken
toys, and the shards the hula girl lamp has become.

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