Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Bayly Thing

Sophie was born with a completely full head of black hair.  Thick, an inch long. Stunning. 

It took years for me to realize this would be a "thing" with Bayly babies.  Because she was only the second Bayly cousin, there was no way to know she'd be first in a long line of freakishly thick black heads of newborn hair.  Now, Bayly baby after Bayly baby is being born with the same lustrous locks.  At least half of the rapidly growing number of second cousins. 

(Eleanor and Josephine are definitely part of the normal hair contingent, although their hair also become insanely long, insanely fast.)

Over and over, I am finally realizing she was part of one of those Bayly "things."  I can't really say that to any new Bayly parents, lest I make them feel sad unexpectedly.  But it doesn't make me sad at all.  I just see those beautiful babies and think, My baby too!  

(In the abstract, that pitiful, quasi-delusional, childish delight does make me feel a wee bit sorry for myself.)

But this is one of those strange ways she keeps on living.  When, years later, I realize she is a part of something.  I never would have expected that, seven and a half years after being born and having died, she'd join a club. 

That's fucking miraculous.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Promise To Remember

I spent this past weekend across the country from home, about as far west as I could travel before hitting water.  I was visiting a friend from college, a best friend.  She's just had twin boys, and I didn't think about whether I'd go.  I just pulled from my next to nothing savings, called on family and my wonderful husband to watch my own babies, and struck out west. 

The girls asked me why I'd leave them to take care of other babies.  I told them that every mother loves her babies as much as I love them.  So, when I love someone that loves a baby, I go to her.  They understood this. 

I swaddled the two perfect forms, held them, listened for their cries, fed them milk my friend had pumped.  I spent hours studying and tracing their perfect faces and, by the end of the weekend, realized I knew their contours and promised to never forget them, the foreheads, the lips--although I know that I certainly, sadly, will.

The forgetting of small faces is something I've learned well.  All mothers know it--we promise to lock these moments in our brains forever--and every one drifts away like sand imported by wind, smoothing out the divots just made by rain.  But when you have a baby whose newborn face is all you'll every see of her, you learn about forgetting the hard way.  If I can forget her face (give her away to false imaginings)--and I have--I will forget everything.

Not until I left did the grief-joy swallow me whole.  Not my own, not this time.  But the single intake and release of breath of all mothers, in unison.  My friend, and all her pain, and this little hope in her eyes now, with these perfect crying little god damn glorious things.  My other friend, and her pain, because her baby has died--and I couldn't save her.  She'll visit her with flowers when they bloom, fed by first warmth and organic things. My other friend, a best friend, who lives with one growing, wildly brilliant black bonneted twin boy, while another sleeps away forever. So many friends--I know them and I don't know them--but I know them.  Each of us crippled differently, but giddy batshit running full gale, or getting there.

 My own little girl, just one of three, with her thick head of mussed black hair, and I envision her standing in the latest bright white winter wind that stings her cheeks and the black twine gets stuck in her snot and tears.  I imagine her blue eyes that stand out today.  And I feel hopeful too.  I gasp at her beauty and wonder if my imaginings of her shoot up into the air like Wifi or sit in the universe like abandoned text files, and if each one I create waits forever on the hard drive of the world.  No different from my living girls standing on a hill, staring at me, all strong and blonde and extraordinary.  Does this exist in the cosmos too?

And so, tonight, I conjure up those new twins in my brain.  I spin fibers like long, thin strings of clay data, and stack them into baby faces.  One rounder at the bottom, another wider at the forehead.  The eyes, the way their hands made those wild red strikes on the world.  I feel the naive hope I'll remember this, and all things, if I meditate them every day.  And then I study faces in photographs, pretending that's the same.  And I trace my childrens' silhouettes, real and imagined, on turbulent plane rides back east. 

And I weep for all the wrong I've ever done, all the things I've forgotten, and I forgive myself, and promise to remember.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Must Learn to Knit

Isn't it strange when you can abstract the process of grieving from the loss itself?  I think I've just gotten here.  The grief changes--the life and death, recorded in some cosmic book, do not.  I've known that truth for some time.  But, reading over my last post, I realize it has nothing to do with Sophie.

(She's preserved in my mind--forever I hope.  Even when I begin to lose my mind--dementia perhaps--I wonder if she will still be there.  And I will be that woman who keeps knitting even when only my hands remember things.  Just like I may still quaver in toothless excitement when I conjure unicorns or dinosaurs, remembering somewhere in my recesses that those impossible things mean my girls.)

But that post was dark, cavernous.  Like the space inside a suspended silently screaming mouth.  I don't often feel that way, and never about Sophie herself.  Only about the dark days of grieving.  And these lighter days are like silent song--the cavern is similar in ways--but oh how melodious.  Still how strange that disconnect.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Rational Now (stolen title)

Read the blogpost of a brilliant friend/mentor today.  The post was about the current Kenyan election--he follows closely because he grew up there (and he's an engaged observer, critic, hopeful of the world).  His post today was so beautiful--all about the efficiency and rationality of the now, versus the more truthful times, as he calls them, of the not so distant past.

If I wanted to draw his attention to my story, I would have commented; I would have said I can relate to this!  I thought about it.  Because I remember more truthful, less rational times in my own history.  When every moment and action felt like laying it all down.  Like losses and gains were sonic booms, and moments were eggs found in tact beneath a tree.  Perhaps so were deaths. 

(I wonder about my friends who've been through war.  Or cancer.)

I don't pine much for the early, frantic days of grieving Sophie.  And I don't write about how distant I feel from that grief now, or how that makes me feel like I've lived through an earthshake that has created chasms between my psychic continents.  And I ended up with all but one leg on this side, slowly drifting away from the blood and screaming and threats of suicide.  It's peaceful here, right?

(But I'd be lying if I said I never longed for grief--isn't that what I'm saying?)

Like I am a reincarnate from a time before time was measured, and now I'm walking in a world of clocks, and arrivals and departures are charted to fragments of seconds.  Beneath the constant ticking I hear the long, low, unsyncopated wail of my own time.

This reincarnation is tricky business.  This life is easier.  The days are easier.  They feel digestible.  But like food pellets, or caloric vitamins. 

(I googled Kenya.  Looked at its Wikipedia site.  The news.) 

And I felt ashamed of my distance, even from research.  Kenya reduced to a single page.  My daughter reduced to a day of remembrance.  Kenya reduced to one woman's suffering.  The world reduced to my laptop.  They fit neatly inside each other, like strange, corpsely stacking dolls, don't they?

The post.  Please read:

Thursday, March 7, 2013


We're ready for you Spring!  we yell from the front stoop.  With hands cupped around our mouths, for warmth and guiding voices out to some place where weather might hear us.  We're ready for you Spring!

And we go back inside to quiet games.  Wrestling.  Television.  Books.  All of them making my bones feel like they'll break through my rubbery flesh.  But we're exhausted from the yelling.  And I vow to be more resilient next winter.  To dress properly and march the kids out, no bullshit weather's permission.  I nearly faint onto the bed, giving up, whimpering.  I give up.  We're ready for you Spring.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Miserable Moaning Mommy

Sometimes I write a poem.  And I tool over its minutiae, make it whatever version of flawless is possible.  Or I blast through it and judge it good enough, because even if it only exists on my thumb drive, it exists somewhere and the act of writing it has made me better.  Yes, that's enough. 

Other times, though, I write a poem, and I do these same things.  And then I read it the next day, and I'm stunned by its lack of resonance.  Its utter, terrible un-imagination.  And I wonder, does that mean I'm meant to be an infrequent poet?  That I should write more?  That I should give up?  That I am uncreative, unimaginative, myself?  That I need to travel?  To experience?  To read more?

I don't have the answers, so I travel in my brain.  And I create those places there.  And I read.  And I write.  And I fail, fail again.

As my kids would say, "Miserable Moaning Mommy."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spare Key in the Garden

Sitting on the deck with cigarettes and an evening alone,
I think of the way we trolled the yard for a place to hide
the key, a spare you would use in case, and we practiced
turning it in the lock, and your small hands were strong
enough and I marveled that you knew to leave the flat
side down--and I told you to find this silver treasure
if I was stuck in traffic, or god forbid in just a little car
, and you seemed bewildered but I know you'll
ride the bus tomorrow and hope in secret pockets that
I've forgotten or wrecked (just a little) so you can tip
the heavy garden St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things,
an unearth a shiny symbol of independence, something
yesterday you wouldn't know if you'd seen it peek from
beneath a cement statue, and inside I hear you talk in your
sleep, and a guitar string snap spontaneously and echo,
and I hear a crunch and feel sure I've stepped on a ladybug--