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The [last wave of] thefts happened during the end of the Franco regime. . .nuns who worked in maternity wards took the infants after they were delivered and told the women, who were often unwed or poor, their children were stillborn. But the babies had been sold to well-off Catholic parents. Under a pile of forged papers, adoptive families buried the crime they committed. The children were known simply as “stolen babies.” No one knows exactly. . .but estimates suggest tens of thousands.

        -- “Taken Under Fascism, Spain’s ‘Stolen Babies’ Are Learning the Truth,” Nicholas Casey, New York Times Magazine (27 Sept. 2022)

How deep blame runs.

How turbulent

the shame, this rage.

Barren couples

fertile with money

bundling pesetas

in buttoned jackets

double-zipped purses

to convent offices

formed to assure

arrivals not reared

by heathen reds

pocketing false certificates

the burden never to speak

of what’s exchanged

birth mothers

in their hour

of sweaty relief

shown tiny

defrosted corpses,

adoption deeds

inked in triplicate

by a church militant

battalioned against

the suspect poor;

most, plunged in grief,


children taught

never to ask the Question

not to quiz aunts

complicit in silence;

hushed by cousins

betrayed or betraying.

Where do they go

from here, these infants

now grown: bedrock

human ties befouled

by dead ‘good parents,’

aged Sisters

immune from suit.

For those who persist

slow paths wind

through years of archives

toward shadows

who might be Mother

or Father

past sub-let



The Raven's Perch, 26 March ​2023


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