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 are 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
that might be Mother
or Father

past sub-let