Friday, December 31, 2010

You Braided My Hair

In that hospital room, my hair fell in my face. 
The long wisps got caught behind my glasses
and stuck to my wet eyes. 

But I didn't dare to reach my arms up and brush it away,
because that would mean leaving my stomach
open to the gazes of our visitors.

They would have to see my still, vulnerable bulge,
swollen with a baby that had already left us.
They would have cringed, looked away.

The aversion of their eyes to my baby would break my heart.
That stomach would press into their worlds and burn there
and force us all to contend with the inevitable.

I resisted the itch to raise my arms, protecting her despite my failure
So I let the hair cluster up around the moisture on my cheeks.
and let it hang there until I couldn't stand it.

Then, you braided my hair.  You sat behind me when I needed you.
I don't forget that you waited for my signal or how that must have hurt.
Your eyes must have dripped and you must have let them.

You protected me despite these human failures by keeping your hands
wrapped up in my hair, never dropping the strands to wipe your nose.
For those moments, you took on the heavy sweet tangle.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dappled Gray Shifts in the Window

From my place on the couch under stacks of blankets,
I can see a narrow slit of window light.
Through it are clouds, layered purple and gray,
Closer spaces and those drifting further and behind.
But the light hits them, and they appear like dapples.
From here, in my place of little stitched leather imaginings,
Distant gaseous clouds move like a gray horse,
Shifting and grazing within inches of the glass.
Right outside my house, I could mount the distance,
Feel the warmth and strength of withers and long legs,
And move away on wind like the gray's blood rushing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Man On The Ladder (not a poem)

The day Sophie was stillborn brought on a collage of moments. Some of them were good--I felt better when I took the medications they gave me. I drank my first coffee in nine months--it was bitter, but it tasted like the Catherine I knew. Friends visited even when we told them to stay home. I could take my solace in drifting off into space, eyes locking into what was simply emptiness. That's all I can think of, actually. It hurt (and remembering it hurts) more than anything I hope you can imagine. And then there was leaving the hospital. We packed up our bags. I squirmed into the clothes I thought would fit when I imagined my body post-baby. If she'd been there, I wouldn't have minded bursting with all the remaining weight. Or maybe I would have, but I wouldn't have wished it all would decay and fall away all around me. A piles of bones in the hospital vestibule. But, we brushed our teeth. I showered with the water on boiling hot. They brought me down in the wheelchair, like the moms on tv. Poor Bill carried the diaper bag, and he might remember what else. Maybe it was our maternity tags, or my fat, tear-bloated face, or the way I held those yellow roses like a new baby. Swaddled in their green plastic. But someone knew. A man, late forties. About two steps up a ladder. He looked over as the nurses wheeled me out. His eyebrow went up, and those dark brown eyes asked in eye language, "A baby?" I looked right back, the first eyes I'd met in days. I shook my head ever so slightly and my face crumpled. "No baby." In a gesture I'll never forget, his head dipped to the right, and his hand went to his heart, then palm out toward me. He knew, he understood. That was the first time I felt someone might have known. That man on that ladder.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Night on Toast

I visited the mall today,
and let the girls play
with the oversized foam
figurines and other tots.

The children all around
flitted in and out of view.
Light and shadows,
layering phantoms over real,
like night on toast.

My mind is a place
where fortification is fantasy
and I can jostle the imaginary.
I spread night on toast-
it is sweetly invisible
and tastes like whatever I want.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Roses and Stuffing.

How do you keep collecting things.
Maybe it's part of the magic of mothering you.
I live through the barrel of stuffed animals
that smell new and lightly dusty, and not like you at all.

You smelled like a rose cut days ago.
And your skin was just as soft.
And kissing you felt that way too.
Not like the plush horse in the nursery.
But cool and smooth, I would drink you in again.

Now I sift through packages and old cards,
Once upon a time sorted in two piles:
A small stack of congratulations
and too many sympathy cards to read at once.
Dried roses I got to keep and a dusty mobile of stuffed bugs.

Missed Blizzard Haiku

We waited on snow
On soft white taking over
Missed us narrowly

Waiting and watching
Hearts laid open at windows
Snowflakes fell as rain

The days we missed our blizzard
Still it smells like snow

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Keeping the Quiet Away"

In these moments,
life's slow plodding becomes a gallop instead.

Sloping strides, fists unfurled for aerodynamic's sake,
and maybe by relaxing the knuckle.
We move so quickly on spindly legs,
fast enough that the wind seals up our wounds.
Places we were sure would never stop bleeding
seem sealed tight by living out in the air again.

But the slowing down is inevitable.
We will surely make it home in time to warm up.
We will curl up our bodies, feeling healed
by the movements of fast freezing.
Then the warmth of homefires softens
the raw places, and the moisture creeps in again.
Blood and tears in those quiet moments.

How fast and cool the days must move
to keep the quiet away.

(This poem needs some work, a project to get back to.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Total Lunar Eclipse, Winter Solstice 2010"

The rusty eclipse felt like a secret.
I did not hear the other doors on my road opening and slamming shut.
I did not hear neighbors shivering, stomping, or muttering about the cold.
Maybe the houses are just a shade too far apart.

The inches that stretch into feet,
Property lines that divide our experiences, shut our mouths,
Walls, and trajectories of vision and sound where walls can't be built,
We avert our eyes and ears to be polite.

We create those walls in stores,
And on the street, we don't ask questions or reach for strangers' hands,
Or take off our sunglasses when our eyes run, or even ask quietly for a napkin,
To wipe our tears or scribble down our stories.

Dozens of stories, living, dying.
Last night, breathing heavy, circling, and threatening to tell themselves.
This impossible task to catalog or recreate the infinity of inside spaces,
Where eyes turned up as the moon went red.

Like the stories we choose to tell,
Or those we omit when keeping certain company, this will be forgotten.
The night we all saw the moon, bone white hanging on some invisible string,
Until all the stories housed here,
Gave it blood and tinged its surface.
Like remembering colors my cheeks
The moon dripped secrets.

Sweetest Pea.

So, I've posted before about Stephanie Cole and the Sweet Pea Project.  She does amazing work through her foundation to support parents who've lost babies.  Although her work gives her purpose, these next few weeks lead up to birthday of her daughter, Madeline, on January 5th, 2007.  She will be celebrating four years of her life with Madeline's spirit this year.  So, I'll be writing to that over the next few weeks.  And, honestly, I'll be continuing through February I'd imagine to commemorate the losses of three other very special babies in my life.

Finally, for anyone who has experienced a loss like mine, or like Stephanie's, she is participating in a creativity retreat for bereaved parents on January 22, 2011.  It will focus on expression through creativity.  Contact me and I can put you in touch with Stephanie or visit her blog directly to be in touch:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Snow

The snow hissed heavy on the frozen ground for hours.
Its sizzle on my shoulders made me wonder about heat and cool
And the whispers I heard and which was whispering.

The flurries stopped at four,
When the deck was covered completely.
But in the yard, an inch of grass poked
above the smattering of white.

I felt, in their blades, they must have known my questions.
All warm complexity at the roots
And exposed spring-like stalks of green
Their still, vulnerable places.

Betrayed by the ground between them
That gave so easily over to winter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I took a break today and layed in your toddler bed.
I had to curl my body up to fit there,
while I considered the way you stretch out
and rotate in the night like the hands of our clock.
I smelled your cow and on him there was milk,
and warm breath and the scent of raisins.
I wanted to drink it in, bottle it up like this forever.
Blocking the thought that you'll only be this girl today.
Tomorrow you'll be bigger, always stretching
further into the corners and crevices of the bed.
Someday you'll outgrow these turned spindles,
and I'll clean it out and up and discover the beads
and doodled-on playing cards of your youthful collections.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Girls I Knew.

I once knew a girl who used only pencils.
She liked them sharp and the smell of them
out of the manual grinder.

She listened to classical music
and everyone liked her for it.

I once knew a girl who was too heavy to ride horses.
But her boot leathers creaked like two ancient doorways
as she lugged a trunk of curry combs.

She smoked cigarettes behind the barn
and never once burned it down.

I once knew a girl with remarkable teeth.
They weren't arrow-straight, but diamond-strong
like she could chomp through a femur.

She flashed them under a nose-
that must have either hooked or turned upward.

I once knew a girl who wore floor-length sweaters
Sometimes they were primarily-colored and beginning to pill
I often wondered if they scratched at her smooth skin.

She lightly swept her fingertips against chair rails
and walked on her heels--body tipped backward.