Michelle Dodd


My family is as white as Dogwoods.

    I felt I was pulled from the African Diaspora.

My identity crisis started from the switch of my hips,

not knowing how to properly take care of my hair.

I had to learn,

the best parts of me are not wedged

in between adoptions letters.


I thought brown meant scar,

meant closed,

meant to adopt as many white characteristics as possible.

I used Mederma all over,

I thought lightening creme

was the solution,

because I thought all of me was a scar.


When you don’t look like your family,

you tend to be in the middle of the photos,

   for the balancing act,

as if to say,

the family still needs to be symmetrical,

because if you’re going to be a smudge,

you might as well be the one in the middle,

so it looks intentional.


I am afraid       of opening doors

that were glued shut in picture frames.

I am afraid of picking the lock,

being called an intruder by my mother,

thinking I came to rob her

of what joy she has held onto.


When I was younger,

I would knock on any closed door,

thinking my heritage was listening, just on the other side

     just a door knob turn away.


My birth mother chose a closed adoption.

I’ve been wanting to open it,

but, I don’t have the right set of hands.

  I can’t remember how to turn the damn knob.

I just end up pushing,

because it’s comforting,

to lean on something and know it’s not going anywhere.

It’s comforting that the door won’t split.


I don’t want to break my birth mother, but

my birth records are a blackout poem,

I am a cryptogram with no key.





Michelle Dodd is a spoken word artist based out of Richmond, Virginia. She has performed for TedxWomenRVA in 2016. She is a fellow of The Watering Hole Writing Retreat and Winter Tangerine. She was one of the coaches, for the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) CUPSI slam team for 2018, that placed 3rd internationally. Dodd has been published in Whurk Magazine, K'in Literary Journal, The Scene and Heard Journal, SWWIM, Wusgood, and others. She has self published two chapbooks of poetry in 2017.

"When I was a baby, I was adopted into a white family. I’ve always struggled with identity issues, when it comes to being a part of a family and also being a black girl and black woman, and what that means, or looks like for me. Growing up, I didn’t have many black women to look up to. I didn’t have access to an avenue, where I’d feel comfortable in my skin.

I was looking through some old photographs, and I realized that in many of the family photos, I was always in the middle, along with my sister, who is also black and adopted. I was starting to wonder about symmetry within my immediate family.

When I was writing this poem, I was using it as a jumping point to my understanding of the meaning of my black, and the different space I fit into and the ones that I don’t. Now, in my adult life, I have grown into feeling like I fit in at home. Through writing, I have gained understanding and confidence.

I haven’t met my birth mother, but when I was younger, I would pretend to have conversations with her, in a mirror. I would literally spend 15 to 20 minutes staring at myself wondering if I have my mother’s eyes, and if that’s the case, would she be able to see me through these eyes of mine. I have also had a fear of interrupting my birth mother’s life and what that could mean for me. I haven’t decided on whether I want to meet her or not. But, I am curious. It’s a puzzle, and once I have all of the pieces, I believe that I will be at peace with who I am and live boldly, and uninhibited."