What Would Harry Holt Do – by Christy NaMee Erikson

Everyone knows what Harry Holt would do

as a businessman

who wanted to be a hero

as a father

who wanted more

as a Christian

with connections.

Well I wanna know

what would Harry Holt do if he knew about all the good Korean Adoptee Christians

that are hookin up all over this town.

What would Harry Holt do

if Buddhist Black people started to adopt in thousands?

or if suburban White babies were being left at Lunds and Byerlys.

What would Harry Holt do if all the adoptees knew a song and the song was how much is that baby in the window? And at night we could look through our story on the bookshelf, see the letters, see the bills, see how much it cost our parents to buy us.

What would Harry Holt do.

What would Harry Holt do if Holt Korea has to shut down general operations in the summer just to handle the influx of adoptees, the migration of Koreans from all these continents back to the land they were taken from, looking for their roots, looking for their mothers, looking for their


What would Harry Holt do if our birth mothers wanted to write us a letter but they didn’t know what Korean name the orphanage gave us or they didn’t how to spell the American name they heard about or they didn’t know how to write roman letters. How would they start.  How would he start

to tell them.

What would Harry Holt do if all the Korean mothers started to cry one night, beginning at sunset and ending at sunrise, in the corner of each of their homes, in the quiet of each of their secrets, under the floors of the floors of the floors of their stories. And the tears were so many that they began to flow into the streets of Seoul. Of Pusan. Of Dae Gu. And the country woke up to a new river that everyone saw but no one talked about.  That sparkled like wishing stars but filled everyone with sadness.

What would Harry Holt do what would Harry Holt do

if a Korean mother and a Korean daughter could only understand each other

if a White Mormon missionary from Utah translated.

What would Harry Holt do when the only thing adoptees can really call their own from Korea is their Korean name tattooed on their body somewhere and they can’t even read it.

What would Harry Holt do if Korea made a new reality tv show

still about Korean adoptee reunions

but this time all the adoptees are reunited with him.

What would Harry Holt do with the stress of 200,000 questions! What would Harry Holt do with the results of a customer service survey! What would Harry Holt do if we started to write our own research. What would Harry Holt do with all the prayers

young adoptees whisper to Harry Holt’s god. With all the wishes burnt on birthday candles, all the letters sent to Santa, asking, requesting, begging for whiter skin or bigger eyes or a less flat face or to be Megan Nelson or Camille Jarvis or Heidi Farrington who’s a little chubby but everyone still likes her that’d be alright

what would Harry Holt do about


when money turns to shame and an Iowan man beats his four Korean adopted children to death with a baseball bat

what would Harry Holt do about


when things change and a child loses their shine

when a Dutch couple visits Korea, picks up a daughter and returns her to the orphanage 7 years later.

What would Harry Holt do about


when adoptees are saving their allowance for a surgery to cut a fold in their eyelids

when they’re only dating colorblind white men who have a thing for Asians

when they’re holding their own grown mother in their arms as she breaks

what would Harry Holt do about love when their families don’t wanna hear about it anymore don’t want hear about it anymore you were never our Korean child you were just our child!

What would Harry Holt do


and what would Harry Holt do


to save us?


Christy NaMee Eriksen is a multidisciplinary poet, teaching artist, and organizer whose work is grounded in social justice and community engagement. Her work has appeared at The Loft Literary Center, The Roundhouse in London, the anthology “Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines” and forthcoming “The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith & Spirit.” She has received awards for both art and activism, including two Rasmuson Foundation awards, the Equilibrium Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship, Honorable Mention for the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes prize, and Mayor’s Award for Artist of the Year. To view more of Erikson’s powerful work, please visit her website: www.tsunamee.com

*Harry and Bertha Holt were the founders of Holt International adoption agency. You can find more information about their history and the agency HERE.

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