June 03, 2010

Little Green

I wrote all this out before realizing that I misread the prompt at GIMH's adoption poetry carnival. Apparently I was supposed to write a poem about adoption, not share a poem. I haven't written a poem since my angst-filled college years ended. You really don't want me to start again, trust me. And this technically isn't a poem, but song lyrics. I suppose I cheated twice over.

So, oops. But I'm linking anyway!

I admired singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's talent for years before I learned the story behind her song "Little Green." She wrote it a few years after placing her baby daughter for adoption, a little girl she named Kelly Dale. When Kelly was born, Mitchell was still Joan Anderson, young and struggling to make a living, unaware of the huge success that was just a few years away.  You can read more about her story and how its details are woven into the song. It has so many of the heartbreaking elements common to that era (and, admittedly, still often true today): secrecy, immense social stigma against unwed mothers, agency workers pressuring her as she tried to find a way to raise Kelly, discrimination from the hospital. She kept her daughter and the adoption private for decades, until it was revealed by a tabloid in the 1990s. The two reunited in 1997.

"Little Green" reminds me that far more people than we ever realize have adoption in their life's story--people we work with, laugh with, shop next to, admire or despise from afar. There is something terribly poignant to me that millions of people listened to these words for decades without knowing what a deeply personal thing Mitchell was sharing with them. The story of her little kelly green.

Little Green
Joni Mitchell


Born with the moon in Cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who've made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything's warmer there
So you write him a letter and say "Her eyes are blue"
He sends you a poem and she's lost to you
Little green he's a non-conformer

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You're sad and you're sorry but you're not ashamed
Little green have a happy ending

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the Northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My first mother told me she named me that.
That song makes me want to vomit.

Claudia said...

I've loved that song for years, and never, never picked up that it was about adoption. Now you say it, it seems really obvious. And heartbreaking.

cynthia said...

I wrote about this song one time too. Kills me every time I hear it.

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