Thursday, September 30, 2010

"You Win" by Marce Weibel

    You win – I surrender!
    Broken hearted and battle scared.
    Waiting, patiently waiting, for you to trust,
    Only to find it’s an elusive shadow.

    After all the stops and starts,
    We keep coming back to here, the edge of nowhere.
    Eyes, weeping eyes
    Who do you think you are fooling?

       If I only could turn back time,
    Maybe I would find a way.
    No matter though – you’d never let me inside.
    Insignificant am I.

       Your familiar silence, a weapon of disregard,
    Always brushing me aside.
    A wounding weapon – BANG!  BANG!
    You’ve shot me down.

       Through the saddening pain,
    So profound the ache,
    Flickering clarity emerges – an unfortunate truth.
 My heart cannot take anymore coats of paint.

       A sacred chant of knowing,
    Whispering – Denial is being vanquished.
    I’ll allow myself the freedom,
    To complete this journey.

       No longer do I need to endure.
    Strong and courageous, I’m proven to be.
    When all is said and done – you’ll be the lonely one.
    I surrender – You win!
                                                                                                     (Marce 12/09)

Not a bad time for a power outage.

Your guitar is acoustic
and my pencil is sharp.
You won’t break a string.
My eraser long bitten off.
Tomorrow we'll have memories
of scritch and riffing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Imago Project.

The Imago Project is my testament to parenting our sleeping babies. And this piece of The Lifespan of Butterflies is dear to my own heart.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is also the month of my sweet Sophie's birthday. At full term, Sophie was stillborn on Halloween of 2005. Leading up to what would be my first daughter's fifth birthday, and in commemoration of all sleeping babies, I will be challenging myself. For each day of October, I will write and post a poem or piece of prose. Hopefully, this process will both get me through the month and inspire and encourage other parents to join in.

As Stephanie Cole, author of "Still" and founder of The Sweet Pea Project, wrote to me in recent conversation, this will be well worth it if "one mom open[s] up about something she's been burying inside of her for too long."  And one mom is guaranteed.  Because I will be writing at least one poem each day.  I will be posting that poem daily, here on the blog.  If you are a parent to (or love) a sweet sleeping baby, please feel free to join in.  Or simply support the project of gathering parents, sisters, brothers, and partners here by grabbing our button in the sidebar, if you wish. 

Express freely, and love easily. As always, thank you.


Hello there!  I am just dropping a quick note here to alert you to new posts in "Me, Daily."  I am cooking up an idea for October, which will go up here and then be moved to "Calls."  (By the way, Calls is the section where you can find poetic prompts--check it out.)  Warm thoughts.

As always,
Thank you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Walking in October" by Catherine A.G. Bayly (2007)

The wind hurts as it slices at my skin. It is quintessential October--the sky and earth scream that Autumn is here. I am walking with Eleanor, and my legs are red and rough where the skin is exposed just above the knee. Leaves whip and slash across our faces, and the air smells of things burning. Each leaf and gust that angrily paints my face with Fall strikes bone. My body remembers. This is a time of loneliness, aching arms, phantom stirrings. A time when the early-falling night brings fear and sadness deep as dark stretches of space. I feel the pain of fresh birth in my womb. The body remembers being without. The muscles remember, the shoulders, the jaw, the upper legs, the vocal chords, the clenched fists. The eyes remember crying, and the mouth crying out. When the wind blankets, the body shudders with remembrance.

I look up at the sky and try to see her in the sharp contrast between reddening leaves and sapphire pearlescence. I look left and right when I drive, looking for a small ocean-eyed girl in the woods or on the highway, standing shivering and alone without me. My heart longs for her. I look at the clear unblinking blue of Eleanor's own eyes, and I touch her apricot skin. Her smile breaks my heart so cleanly. And, again, my body twists into the the tree-flinging wind memories, protecting us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Our Year" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

Shortly following the turn of the millennium,
            he convinced me this was “our year.” 
So footloose and morally-indulgent,
I scoured thrift store shelves—
             burgundy and gold.  I was so ironic then.

We picked apples and drank fall cider.
Cauldrons of fire-hot billion bean chili.
            He wore a burgundy hat—
            Massive gold pompom.

Nearly a decade later—
And Sundays still carried the scent of excitement.
Week after week, as it ended painfully
on the other side of the wire,
arms thrown to the heavens, he exclaimed—
            Done with this.
            Can’t take it anymore.
            Wasting my life away.
We don’t talk about it anymore.
I’m wearing blue today—

Him, khakis and plain white shirt. 

But he slips out the door around noon.
Comes back with a single shopping bag.
Beans.  Peppers.  Mushrooms. 
Silently brings them to a simmer on the stove.

As the light gets low,
Somehow he’s down by the couch.
Pretending to do other things.
Begins to pay attention.
Soon he’s yelling.
To my chagrin.

Terrifically crisp jersey.
How did this happen.
Fist pumps.
Leaps on the coffee table.
              My husband is a homer.
(A quick silly poem written today.  My how Fall has changed.)

Robert Frost's Window, a photograph.

(Courtesy of Charlotte Criss. Thank you.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"A Heart's Canvas" by Marce Weibel

Early morning, late night,
        I cry to understand the loss.
Fear and pain wash over me.
        Drowning, I scream and gasp!
        Grief is not a quiet thing.
Shredding all I’ve known to be true.
Ceasing for a moment, only to return.
Each reassurance peeling away,
        Layers of darkness from the heart’s canvas.
Stripping away the shadows of
Trusting nature to cleanse my soul.
Painting life anew, with vibrant appreciation,
        Oneself, an artist yet to be.
                                                                          Marce 3/10

"Jagged Red Line"

The jagged red line above your cheeks is one of your more amazing parts.
I know this because of your penchant for frequently going pantless.
While you make toppings bars out of VHS cases or fight your sister for imaginary bracelets.
There is something in that red line—in its asymmetry—in the way it snakes and scissors.
In the way you’ll throttle me when you are old enough to comprehend I’ve written this.
Something in that angry red makes me see the way you are pieced together.
Sewn by someone like myself, an amateur with a too-big needle and cacophony of thread.
Somewhere in your seams, there is compromise and newborn, naked flexibility.
You scare me and wrestle my jaw to the floor with your infinity of tiny textiles.

(Later today, this may strike me as too personal for the site.  And its completely unworkshopped.  So it may come down later.  Or I may revise it publicly.  No thoughts on this yet.  As always, thank you.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Redemption" by Marce Weibel

    Sorrow floods my heart,
                 Depositing a guilty silt of discord.
           I’ve done it to myself again.
                 Letting you bait my hook.
          You wiggle about on our pole of intimacy
                 And all parts in between.
          Either hiding or pretending.

          No one has the power to hurt me more deeply,
                  Than I do myself.
         Why am I casting out this line of hope?
                  Knowing in my heart its not to be.

          Reeling within, a flickering awareness ignites.
                   In order to stop the hurting,
          I have to get out of love with you.

                                   I SNAP THE POLE!
                                                                                     Marce 2/10

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"It Starts Again" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

You don't want to eat this food.  You're hungry.  But it hurts to move your jaw.  The muscles are too tense.  You'll save it for a better time.

You open the cabinet where you keep plastic containers.  They are disorganized.  There are many of them.  A few tumble out as you try to find a lid that fits.  Your skin crawls as you bend to so slowly pick them up.  You are sure you'll lose your mind.

The radio is on.  Despite the fact that the classical music is soft and fluid, the sound of bows on violins makes you want to jump out of your body.  You are on the brink.

You're half awake and as much coffee in.  Your daughter wants you to wear a headband.  She doesn't understand.  She wont.  She can't give up as she climbs over you like a jungle gym.  To clap the headband over your ears.  Your head pounds, the blood churns and pumps.  Why can't she hear it.  You must wash this off.

Brush your hair.  Hit a tangle.  Yank.  Slam your brush back into the thatch of wet hair.  Hurts.  Feels good.  Tangle.  Spinning out of control.

Your child brushes against you as you make pancakes for lunch.  Sticky syrup hands.  Pins and needles shoot up your thigh from the point of contact.  Into your torso.  You can hear in your brain--a siren, whirring.  You need it to stop.

You're suddenly angry.  The kids are making noise.  Your husband has just gotten home.  He wants a kiss.  You want that too, but the feeling of his scruff on your face feels like infinity razors.  You walk away.  You step on a useless wind-up toy.

You kick the wall.  You feel better.  The wall is dented.  You know you'll be ashamed when you patch it up, come morning.  But, for a split second, your brain stops.

It starts again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Sophie" by Maura Bayly

She was my first niece, who no one truly got the chance to know. She was the one with the peach nursery. She was the baby born on Halloween. She was the one I never got to meet. When she was born, my mother thought it was best if I didn’t get to meet her. While everyone was at the hospital together, I was in the nurse’s room crying by myself. I received text messages as an “update” on what was going on. An “update” like it was the super bowl game. I had such anger towards my mother for a very long time. I was the one who was counting down the days until she was born. I was the one who first went shopping to buy her a wooden “S” to put above her crib. I was the one that helped make the baby shower invitations. And yet, I was the one who was not allowed to see her precious face. After much thought and a lot of tears, I came to appreciate my mother’s decision. Even though I would give anything just to see her face, and to count her fingers and toes, I now have something to look forward to when I reach heaven. I imagine my wonderful niece, Sophie, waiting and greeting me with open arms. And this gives me happiness.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"For Juliet on the Day of Her Christening" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

As I sit, tired, my eyes are blinking over the strawberry-washed memories of the day with Juliet.
Touching a sweet small hand, that is silken and tea-warm, reminds me of the existence of life's sweet tiny joys -
And massive, sloping futures.

Juliet, in one perfect moment in chaos - an eclipse of the feelings of swooping, wingswept, and also sitting still.
She is a tiny, self-contained intricately-woven basket, capturing and enrapturing us in the reasons why we live.

Holding a new baby, soft as a sack of sandman's warm night-giving dust.
A feeling that resonates like deep sea booming song through the holder's torso.
Feeling a locket-sized heartsnap beautifully beating shocks sunshade-perfumed air into my lungs -
For the first time in centuries, Juliet has made me feel alive.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Posted for James on his Birthday, a poem by Melissa Durst.

Sweet breath against my neck
Fuzzy soft hair brushes my cheek
You hold the hope of life
So promising

I will do good by you.

Untitled, by Mary Cox

We arrived with him
and a sliver of God
We pretended we knew
how this would end
We foolishly believed
in God and ourselves
We filled sad halls
with laughter and life
We lowered our eyes
as others rolled out
We arrived with him
and a sliver of God
We limped away
with bloody knees
We uncurled our hands
stiff from useless prayers
We reeked of panic
breathless from desperate cries
We arrived with him
and a sliver of God
We kissed our last goodbye
then left God behind

Friday, September 17, 2010

This is about me.

This is about me.
This is about feeling too deeply.
This is about loving too hard.
This is about wanting something too badly.
This is about the taste it leaves in your mouth.
This is about swallowing it.
This is about living.
This is about rushing on hot coals.
This is about tripping over a chance.
This is about a scar from hot concrete.
This is about being ripped open by my heart.
This is about the dead places inside me.
This is about sprinkling water on a frying pan.
This is about watching it dance.
This is about flecks of broken womb.
This is about trees dead for winter.
This is about the gray field of tiny, halted stumps.
This is about growing them for slaughter in the springtime.
This is about angels at night in the corner of the room.
This is about slivered hallucinations.
This is about lying naked on the bathroom floor.
This is about the roadmap of my body.
This is about a beautiful night of laughter.
This is about coming home to candles lit.
This is about cradling nothing.
This is about pouring hot wine in an open wound.
This is about praying to nothing to dream of something.
This is about phantom kicks.
This is about a belly still swollen.
This is about the terror of waking up each morning.
This is about being so lucky.
This is about feeling so afraid to hurt you.
This is about staying out too late.
This is about wanting so badly to be beside you.
This is about the silent stricken look on your face.
This is about not caring if you've made it this far.
This is about having a girl I call sissy.
This is about her kissing your cold cheek.
This is about a perfectly still projection.
This is about a heart that has ceased to beat.
This is about the first time I saw your face in white and black.
This is about you knowing my voice.
This is about babies feeling pain.
This is about the first time you never called me mama.
This is about "getting out".
This is about "getting over it".
This is about the eyes I knew were blue.
This is about dark hair I will only see glued to manila paper.
This is about baby feet inside of me.
This is about the baby knees I never knew.
This is about "Baby's First Christmas".
This is about the lifespan of butterflies.
This is about the locket I grab when I think of you.
This is about making the three of us my labor of love.
This is about seeing you trot into her room.
This is about seeing you walk out bewildered.
This is about snuggling you at night.
This is about listening for your cry in vain.
This is about time travel.
This is about present wrapping.
This is about dropping pine needles.
This is about Halloween candy.
This is about grieving alone at night.
This is about the way you hold me in the crook of your neck.
This is about quilts with your name on them.
This is about being your sweet pallbearer.
This is about being so proud of my perfect girl.
This is about our beautiful rosebud baby.
This is about starving to death.
This is about oozing deep dark red.
This is about my head on kitchen cabinets.
This is about never being the same.
This is about grasping for independence.
This is about seeing the future in a greasy skillet.
This is about a day without lavender suicide.
This is about a white dress stained always with your blood.
This is about breasts full with milk to feed you.
This is about touching feet at night.
This is about feeling you inside me.
This is about everything.
This is about nothing.
This is about green glass shattered over my crimson life blood.
This is about keeping you warm and full of love.
This is about your sleeping bones in the cold cold ground.
This is about knowing our picture lies with you there.
This is about all the stories I read to you.
This is about the places you'll never go.
This is about giving you life forever.
This is about a greater pain.
This is about some god needing angels.
This is about things happening for no reason.
This is about "the last mystery in obstetrics".
This is about meant to be, my baby.
This is about me not meant to be your mommy.
This is about my dead heart melting with my heavy killing coffin stomach.
This is about the way I love you when you touch me.
This is about your brave heart.
This is about wishing you would shrink to a size I could hold.
This is about being real.
This is about dropping to my knees on the floor.
This is about crying out for mother nature to take - me - too.
This is about knowing each day is another without your baby lips.
This is about knowing what a beautiful loving woman you would have been.
This is about not seeing you dance with your daddy.
This is about you missing a dance with your daughter on your wingtips.
This is about looking in your face and seeing her.
This is about being my own person.
This is about being broken open again.
This is about our tiny sage green dollhouse family.
This is about forever the rest of my life.
This is about choking on how much I love you.
This is about not caring if you've read to the end.
This is about me.

Sweeter more beautiful, literary poems coming soon, I promise.  And I'm sorry if anyone has read this one before.  I know it's a pageful..

"Keeping Alive" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

I've never had a green thumb. I've purchased geraniums, mums, ferns, cacti--many plants throughout my life. All have withered, browned, and dropped leaves. But, after our baby died, I was given a collection of living plants. Green, breathing gifts were perfect. They were something I could commit to keeping alive, at a time when life was something at which to be furious. Four plants remain now, green, thriving. But, one night last week, one of those plants came crashing to the floor. The pot slivered into thousands of pieces across the kitchen linoleum. I dropped to my knees, nevermind the broken glass. I cried in a way I'd almost forgotten. As my quiet returned, I got out the dust pan. I turned it over in my hands, and looked at the sterile plastic of its handle. These, I thought. These little well-used pieces of plastic and these thousands of store-bought bristles are going to sweep up my baby. Bits of my baby, everywhere. Shards of baby. Remnants of baby. Soft dirt of baby. Leaves of baby. This is what I have left of my baby.

And I swept her up into a plastic dustpan. My memories, already so few, gathered into that plastic dustpan.

(Some of you mentioned this poem, in reference to a previous post, "Housekeeping.")

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Untitled Trio, by Melissa Durst.

Breath caught in throat
Head spinning
Wanting more
Pinning up her dress

Fingertips trailing with sinning
Along walls
Humming a sweet melody
You've undone me

Misspent youth
Searching for acceptance
Wrapped up in self
No repentance

Regrets are small
But heavy like stones
Stacked up in the walls
Of my heart

Life wouldn't be
Had it been different
This truth burns like a flame
Saving me

The despair swallowing me whole
is black and feels sharp

Falling to my knees
tears streaming silently down
I open my mouth to scream
and instead, sing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Bus Shelter" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

Between the heavy curtain of sun and my hand for shade,
I could barely see the bus stop. 
I knew the path well enough, where the sidewalk was smooth—
and where I might deign to lift my teen girl saddle shoes, 
Remnants of times of fewer lessons.
Today I’d fallen through enough cracks to know
the perils of bottle caps and half-digested chewing gum.
Over them, I picked, then back to shuffling—
Beside a nurse in scrubs, purple long having given way to gray.
And a secretary—lamenting having lost her walking shoes.
Our hips touch as we scramble toward waiting in the glass box.
The sun is lower now, quicker to slice and stab.
It is gentler in this box of filing nails and trading newspapers.
My eyes close and my lungs, sighing, settle.
And suddenly seats are empty and standing room spreads to space for dancing.
But my bones will not get to stretching—the sun will come.
It will leap fast and hard into the cool  darkness.
It, too, will shock the dance right out of me.
I will cover my face with the nearest bit of bad news
and keep it covered as I join ranks behind the shelter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Not For Resale" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

The number is hard to come across—and I have to get the address from a friend. It is one of those syrupy sweet charity houses for teens “in trouble.” The colonial looks like any other on this quiet suburban street. Butter yellow, with pink geraniums in the window boxes. We could live here, I think as I steer my new model station wagon smoothly toward the house.

It is decidedly chilly, and the light is just beginning to slice through the trees. I turn the key. The engine shudders into silence all around me. I slide outside and stretch for a moment in the driveway, feeling my loafers rooted solidly to the asphalt.

There is a fist of twine sleeping in the pit of my stomach, and it sneaks upward through my esophagus. It is still summer, but there is autumn in the air—smelling of burnt leaves, balling up its huge hands and screaming out, harvest.

For a moment, I let myself feel the impending death of deciduous times. Then I shake my head slightly and look past the empty pink car seat, made mauve by its 11 months gathering dust. On the floor sits a box, marked Office Samples—Not For Resale. I carefully run my hand over the flaps of brown cardboard. I caress all the way to its base—then start to carry it gingerly toward the chipping, green-painted door. 

I reach the stoop, and my finger hovers at doorbell height. My breath catches in my throat as I see another box by my left foot. A size that might house a good set of kitchen knives or a pair of men’s winter boots. My lungs fill back up with air—is that air?—as I nudge the box with the tip of my shoe. No sound. Ever so softly, I push it again, willing a shrill cry to shake me to my core. Preparing myself to gather another woman’s autumn baby to my aching breast. I drop to my knees and open the box hungrily. I am an atheist secretly seeking out bright packages under fragrant boughs. 

A note reads, Donation. And yet I lose myself for an eternity, digging through folds of freshly-knit pastel blankets. My heart breaks beautifully as I imagine some much younger girl’s baby wrapped up in my tears. When I can no longer bear to search the dwindling crevices of yarn, I close the box.

I shiver in the slanting sun now, feeling an almost-intrinsic shudder toward apple orchards and pumpkin patches—the reaping places of the withering season. Places that cry out of the jack-o-lanterns left grinning and rotting on our porch late into last season. Places that remind me of the soft hiss of leaves as they drop onto small grassy spots, like babies sleep away forever amidst tidy perennially-gardened houses and hay maze front walks.

I sniff hard to regain my composure and set my box of formula on the bricks beside the blankets.

Good Grief.

Hello all. I am writing to respond to some great critical feedback I received late last night. The respondent suggested that this ought to be a place of emotional comfort on a larger scale. I absolutely agreed with her. I’ve always stood behind the idea that each person is entitled to a secret pain. Sometimes not a solitary moment or period that precedes agony. Sometimes it is less transparent—something locked deep within the closet of experience. And yet, whatever feelings emerge from that innermost self are no less “real” than my outpouring of flesh and bone.

I’ve struggled to make this a place of comfort for the griever, and yet I find myself navigating the critical questions of what that really means. In my own life, I am coming upon the five year anniversary of my own profound loss. And yet, I thankfully feel no further from profundity. And I’d argue that in many ways, from the start, I never lacked the potential for those deep thoughts. I’ve always had raw places—been full of emotion. Surely, Sophie turned me in on myself and I came back to life with a poetic drive. But, I am still me.

So, I must face the questions of what it means to grieve. For the purposes of this project, I think the term requires a definition. To grieve means to long for something. To let that thing fill up your heart. To cling to an emotion, or to allow it to grab hold and, with tenacity, steer you from moment to moment. And, so am I “in grief”? If you’ve met me, you know I laugh easily, enjoy life, grow weary, savor spicy food, and indulge in vivid daydreams. So, what of those emotions? Of course, they are no less real. No less worthy of treatment. They are part of my ongoing process of grief, and part of that glorious thing of being human, with all of its great and small feelings. And I propose that I stretch my own definition of grief to include any emotion that gets to the heart of this thing of being human.

This reader’s comment made me consider the immense value of broadening my focus. What I am really seeking to create is a place of comfort, and that means comfort for both reader and writer. I am seeking a place for the memories that tear at open wounds and those that sit forever, sweet and crystalline.  I am seeking catharsis as a way to trudge through heavy, muddy waters and, to take a break, look up briefly, and see a flash of peach-flesh sunrise. I am seeking small and large places. I am seeking beauty in a patchwork of broken human hearts. And, aren’t we all just that?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Beep, Beep, Pause" by Karen R. Lock

A river of dark green bile flows into a receptacle as the gloom inside my heart drowns out the sunlight beaming in the window. The day is March 4, 2003, and it is my twentieth birthday. The familiar faces of family suggest such, but they aren’t here for me, and neither am I. We all sit, quiet and still, some contemplating the remainder of the day, while others strain to remember gentler times when the sterile hospital smells didn’t fill our lungs. As for me I hold my breath and watch the machines, which have come to dictate how the day will go. I am distracted by the discomfort of my chair, but still I watch and listen. For my family the constant beep and hum is somewhat of a bother, but it has been my only source of comfort in the past days. Beep, beep, pause. Shit. My heart beats faster to compensate for the lack of beeping. The beep means nothing has ended, or rather, that the end has not begun. The nurse saunters in, as if her apathy is acceptable, fiddles with the machine, and the beeping resumes. I sit back in my chair, and for a moment I can breathe again.

A moment later I am compelled to reach forward and hold the hand outstretched before me. I struggle to focus on the hand, which has remained constant and familiar, rather than the fragile body or emaciated jaw line which are both foreign and seemingly unrecognizable now. I take a moment to remember how they used to look, perhaps only days ago, but quickly return my focus to the hand for even in my dream world I know those days are long past me. His hand flinches and I worry he may be in pain. The doctor says he’s resting, but it isn’t restful for anyone. I push the morphine button and the tears start to fall.

“Dad, dad, wait for me!” I am running though the grass, tripping over my fishing rod, and loaded down with tackle I don’t even know how to use. Dad is almost to the pier now, using his walking stick as his eyes. I don’t know how he does it. I’m struggling to catch up and my little legs just can’t get me to his side fast enough. The sun is sparkling over the river, boats are cruising, and the neighbors are grilling. It’s a beautiful day in Edgemere. In just a few hours there will be lightening bugs to catch, but for now dad and I are fishing. We finally unload the equipment onto the pier and dad gets to work baiting the lines. I’m not scared to mess with the worms myself but I like him to do it for me. I am Daddy’s girl. The lines are in the water and as we trade stories and thoughts our game of who can hook the biggest fish, most fish, and most species of fish begins. I like to tease him when I win, but the truth is it isn’t about fishing at all.

Something startles me, and reality quickly surfaces and rears its ugly head, only now the room is empty except for dad and me and he is awake. “Happy Birthday, Karen,” he tells me. I try to remember if I jumped when I awoke. I must have; how else would he know I was awake? Focus. He apologizes that I am spending my birthday in the hospital and asks if I have any plans. I tell him mom wants to take me to dinner, but I don’t tell him how nauseous the thought of eating makes me. The container of bile catches my eye and I grimace. We sit in silence for a moment. It isn’t fair that I can eat and he can’t. Thinking back on my childhood, with all the low blood sugars, kidney problems, transplants, and infections, I always thought it would be the diabetes that did it. In fact, in all honesty, after watching him beat the odds time and time again I began to accept that he was invincible. However, this is not the case. The stomach cancer was detected only days ago, and the doctor’s keep using the words “final stages.” I am not sure what that means to them, but to me it means time is running out. Still, this can’t be happening. I can’t decide which feeling I like more: denial or anger. The family re-enters the room, and I drag myself to dinner. Happy Birthday to me.

At most a few days have passed now, but I swear I am years older. Dad is in a new room. The nurse calls it the Executive Suite; it is the Death Room. By now the family and I are living at the hospital. Today dad and I will ask everyone to leave the room. He tells me he is not scared, and that is comforting to me. We then share our plethora of memories to ensure neither of us will forget the other; I can hold it inside no longer. The tears come as he gives me his wisdom, attempting to instill his final hopes for me in a few short minutes. I hear the words. “Karen, don’t ever be afraid to mess up. Live your life the best way you know how, and do your best to make things right before you leave them. You will always have people who love you, and I will always be there.” I can’t see straight, or talk, and I feel like the little girl with too much to carry, struggling to catch up to dad all over again. He lets me have my moment, and as I regain my composure we say our “I love you’s” and the family returns to the Executive Suite.

Those were the last words dad and I ever spoke; later that day he fell into a coma. The doctors kept saying it would be any moment, but the next day they would still be saying the same thing. I kept vigil during the day, talking to him and taking short breaks for a cry or a cigarette. People would come and go, paying their respects. It felt as if he had left me, although he was still breathing, and there was a vast emptiness in my heart. The numbness had taken over. The family would try to comfort me with words and hugs, but I could not hear or comprehend, nor could I feel the warmth of any embrace. I could only sit and think. Think of a miracle, yes, but mostly I just wondered what he was still hanging on to. On March 14, 2003, at two in the morning, I left the hospital for the first time in a week to go home and get some sleep without the nurses’ morning rounds as an alarm clock. It was then that I got my answer. He was waiting for me to leave.

The weekend was filled with plans, flowers, viewings, “I’m so sorry’s,” and inevitably, the funeral. It was held on St. Patrick’s Day and it rained; even nature seemed to understand. Bagpipes paid tribute to my father and to our heritage as I spoke the eulogy as best I could. Then I laid him to rest and said goodbye to the face of the man who for most of my life could not see mine. What he did see in me is what is so hard to let go, for he is probably the only person who saw it. Our life together became a constant movie montage playing in my head, overtaking my thoughts, and for some reason the images of the bile became paramount. I will never forget the bile.

It has been almost a year since those days. Not much has changed; yet everything has changed. I have changed. Daily, he enters my thoughts. Every now and then I remember the hours at the hospital and all that went with it, but more often a stranger, or a smell, a song, or a place will remind me of happier days, days when he was by my side or a mere phone call away, and for a moment I almost forget that he is gone. I will never understand why. Some people find comfort in thinking it was so he would not suffer life’s blows any longer, while others seem to think it was God’s Will and his journey was complete. To a daughter, a father’s role is never done, so I do not try to understand. I simply remember, and now after a year of steps forward and backward, it is time to heed his words. So I am alive and living the best way I know how, and I am certain he is there as promised, waiting for me to catch up.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Me, Daily.

I don't want to take up valuable space with my little housekeeping issues and inane commentary.  So, those will be housed on the "Me, Daily" page.  I've put some notes up over the last few days, so please check them out as you're exploring the vast (ha) geography of the site.

"They happen at night" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

The nightmares had begun coming fast and hard since she lost the second baby. After that night of bloody sheets and prickling frenetic sweat, they would come like waves. Heavy washes of suffocating heat. She had dreams of lost teeth. Stress. Dreams of flying. Escape. Dreams of falling.

But now she was in a public outhouse. She did not remember having arrived, but had the vague sense of the great world breathing freely outside. Inside here, her warped reflection scaled the steel walls—four times over she leered down at her own body, huddled on the black plastic seat. She was curled around herself and whatever small thing lived inside, heartbeats filling her ears and booming in her belly. The thumping. And beneath her she felt the heat. Pouring out of her womb and trickling sticky down her bare legs. The sweet tinny smell as ruby pooled up, ankle-deep. The space beneath her tangled arms deflated. No amount of grappling with the soft fold of flesh or the air or blood around her would raise a tiny body from the muck. And slowly, the resounding beats of the quicker heart slackened and drifted. The clock sounds slipped away from her searching hands like hot blood.

She woke to only her heavy beating heart. And only more sweat on the sheets.

(A prose fiction, dedicated to waiting mothers.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

"For My Sister" by Jean Marie Gelso

               A picture of a butterfly, simple and sad.

You could hear her sobs from down the hall. Loud and wailing, like an infant just out of the womb. Tears wet her face and it shined under glaring lights. She grasped whoever came next to her, weeping, fingers so tight they turned white. He never let go of her hand. Words and names tumbled out of her mouth. However muffled by her cries, their meaning reverberated out of the room, down the hall, throughout the building, soaking every soul.

             All in a piece of paper. Lavender and black, held up by masking tape.

He sat on the end of the bed by her feet. His gaze moved away from her eyes and traced down the lines and curves of her body. They passed her straining neck and milk-filled breasts, landing on her swollen stomach. His chin wrinkled as his shaking hand touched her, first lightly, but with growing intensity. His two vast hands glazed and traveled over what was lost. He toppled, bent himself down overtop of her and cried. He clutched her and wept. Their cries blended and harmonized, feeling the weight of their loss, mourning what now would never be.

             It had been cut out by a nurse with ordinary orange-handled scissors. She had cut twenty more that day.

"I'm a corpse house," she said. "I'm a corpse house." She was filled with and overcome by death. Questions of why and how plagued them, and could never be answered. "This was not what I wanted. This was not what I expected."

             Outside of the room he stared at the butterfly, outlined its wings with his fingers. His shaking touch yearned for whom he had wanted to cradle so badly.

She shook and couldn't think. The pain flowed through her body and out each limb, heavy and inevitable. He grasped her hand as she gave birth to death. There was no sound when it was over. They calmed. They embraced death. Looked at it. Loved her. Held her head in their hands and touched her tiny nose and chin. This was a death they already had a name for. This death was so much more.

             They were strong. Took the picture down from the door and walked out together, empty. Later they laid the butterfly down next to a wilting rose in a soft and expectant bed.

They dressed her in a knit ivory hat and a yellow cotton dress. They laid her down in a small white treasure chest and left a picture of them to keep with her forever. They lowered her into the ground with their own hands. They surrounded her with peach flowers. They do not say goodbye. They see her everywhere: In calendars, kitchen magnets, flowers, the empty nursery, the mirror.





Thursday, September 9, 2010


1) Thank you to the Rumour Mill.  I love reading your blog, I sometimes secretly think we could be great friends in "real" life, and it makes me super happy that you're here. 

2) I killed one of my plants this weekend.  No big deal, I know.  But this was one of five plants I've kept alive since 2005--all gifts given to us when Sophie passed away.  Five years--that's a long time for plants, practically an eternity with me as caretaker.  So, on that note, my feelings about the plant...

Green, slick, crisp-brown about the edges. 
The white pot coated with a thin, sticky layer of dust from five years of hard living.
As the leaves begin to drip and fall, circling slowly about her curves.
Creeping toward an oblivion in the compost.
I decide to live on the edge--giving her one more day without water.
One minute it feels right to let her go.
The next I am standing over her, weeping--
Pouring glass after glass into the well of her dirt.
Making up for times I should have kept her afloat.
She is all that I have, this plant, on the brink.
She is all rubbery leaves now, earth smell and forest darkening.

(By Catherine A.G. Bayly)

3) This place is open for business, should you (anyone) have anything to share.  :o)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


This is it for tonight.  I know there's nothing new here.  Nothing you haven't seen on Busy Baylys.  But, it's a start.  I am working in some basic chronology, and without completely losing my mind, this is what I've got for now.  I hope to get some work by other people up here soon.  I forgot how hard it is to dig through this shelves of archived feelings.  Good night.

"Still Life" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

I turn your photos at all angles.

Upside down, sideways, longways, backwards.
I try to get inside of them.
I try to touch your dimensions.
Today, you really are gone.
I miss you so much my heart breaks.
It is not beautiful today.
It is not a sweet sadness.
It is frantic, and felt through gritted teeth.
In moments, I want to cry out the worst words.
But, I do it silently, mouth open, but no sound.
You can't hear me say those things.
I pray you are watching me.
Knowing how much I miss you.
If I knew all along you would die,
I would be pregnant with you again.
Just to have those moments of holding you.
I would do it right.
I would kiss you like I kiss your sister.
In the soft hollow under the chin.
I would kiss and weep into the palms of your hands.
I would take beautiful photos.
I would know then what I know now.
That more than two years later,
It would hurt like it was yesterday.
That missing you would feel like
My organs ripped from my body.
Worse than that.
I would know that nothing feels worse.
I would know for sure that I would never be the same.
I would prepare for this agony.
I would drink in your soft skin.
I would remember your baby shoulders.
I would have brushed your long hair.
I would have dressed you so gently.
I would have held you until the nurse begged to take you away.
I would photograph you from all angles.
So that I could never forget the way your
Neck met your baby chest.
I would plaster my house with the pictures of you.
I would show them to everyone I meet.

"Over Land" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

Over land.
Somewhere over our heads, children meet.
Over land somewhere, tiny angels crying becomes music.
There is a place, over land, where babies sleep, sun-drenched and swaddled in cloud,
Breathing contented, warmed by the churning of blood,
and beating of hearts.

As we cry here on Earth,
Some where over land, babies wait, as in the womb,
Peace permeates their lives, pain-free, and living each moment, as if it were a lifetime.
Over land somewhere, in the time it takes for one ragged breath to drag through our lungs,
Sons and daughters are growing, living, dying and being born again.
In each moment, somewhere over land,
They dream of us too.

"Times" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

The days have turned sunny and cold, shocking the skin as it shimmies and shakes out the door.

The evening is still, and barren. Dry with eyes gone for months without crying.
Purple, of what looks like moisture, begins the settle around tree bases, and mossy places where only invisible things make their homes.

The nights have been ebony, darkness wrapping, caressing and gently
waving each leaf on the evergreens.

And, by morning, dark and darker compete frantically for night's last hurrah. Amidst their battle, as she does each morning, light flickers and licks through empty spaces. She meets my eyes with her shocking fluorescence, and burns me with her new bits of promise.

"Fall inching" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

It is decidedly chilly, and the light is pouring over the trees, just so. Red, bright and smoke-heavy. I step out outside for a moment, and feel the cold solid weighty truth of my feet rooted on the deck boards. There is a fist of twine sleeping in the pit of my stomach, and it sneaks upward through my esophagus, triggering my crying and choking as the days grow longer and fall inches toward me. It is still summer, but there is autumn in the air - smelling of burnt leaves and screaming out, harvest. I shiver in the mornings now, with anticipation. I feel an almost-intrinsic pull toward apple orchards, pumpkin patches - the reaping places of the withering season. Places that smell of apple cores, and cinnamon-rolled expanses of past. Places that remind me that death goes on in perpetuity, and cry out of the pumpkins left sad to rot on our porch late into last season. Places that remind me of the still-new, gilded gravestone, lonely bearing the name and body of my daughter. Places that remind me of a knife-sharp piercing and yet somehow serrated sadness, and the soft crackle of leaves as they drop on the small grassy spots where babies sleep away forever, amidst apartment buildings and scarecrow images marching in and out of made-identical hay maze offices. As footsteps and mothers and children and fathers and birth and dying and war and crying whip by in their frenzied timeline, I stand here amidst them all, perfectly still. I daily take on this sadness. Let myself feel the red-gold dawn of the death of deciduous times. This emptiness unspeakable, as the earth turns its way toward a time when the burning leaves and last attempts at outdoor life will surely sneak their way into my room at dusk. Curl around my throat and choke me with the smoked odor of autumn roots and life's frigid certainties. My soft, wracked body is complete and dense in its sadness, as I shudder away from a leaf that gently whispers across my bare right shoulder on its descent to the purple, climbing earthfloor. I sob silently while my teeth are chattering, and there is the faint and imagined odor of pumpkin pie on the air as my shoulders heave in the privacy of early morning.

"Untitled" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

I am a body of deep royal sadness.

Tangible moving living breathing

The waves roll in

The waves roll out

Like captured salt brine water

In the sea

The wisdom sadness lives forever

Birthing swelling within me

Empty shallows of skin

Sandbars of golden wheat

Peeking from beneath hot bath

Breasts once teeming

Now empty and hanging across an almost boyish chest

Hands once trembling with the need to give

Now depressed and deflated

Holding nothing

Hips, spread and stretched

The skin peeled back - lashed red striations -

I have drowned in feeling myself a mother.

"Nursery" by Catherine A.G. Bayly

"Mama is sitting on the floor of the baby’s room. She was a girl. I can tell partly by the walls, dripping the heavy sad color of overripe peach flesh, and the pastel butterflies floating like sky above the empty white crib. Mama’s arms are empty, as she holds onto what I guess must be an invisible baby. What she is doing is not quite cradling. Not per se. For every so often, Mama’s arms tear out in front of her and she grapples with the empty twilight for something only she seems to see.

It was not long ago that my mama was happy. You see, my mother was swollen. With happiness, that is. More often than even she would admit, I saw Mama’s eyes well with tears. She looked at me. My father. Or at her belly protruding, full of what I can only assume was something that gave her unsurpassed joy and overtook her with a love that caused her to stroke it gently, father to kiss it, and the two of them to talk and read to it incessantly as if it were something surely more than just blood and bone. But, it is spring now, and I am sure that life is just a phantom. I just know I have never seen her."

I'll start.

This is the first post on my new blog.  I'm a little nervous.  Don't ask why--there's no one reading.  And, maybe that's why.  I'm putting myself out "there."  There, of course, being the great giant interweb.  An immense tangle of imaginary something.  But, I'll be posting a few of my poems, possibly prose.  We'll see where this goes from here.