8 months/35 weeks

Dear Joseph,

 

I am missing you today. I feel your presence, under my ribs. That warm glow in my heart. It’s cheesy, I know, but I’m glad you’ve taken up residence there, internal, so close to me.

This week is 8 months. 35 weeks that you are gone, the same amount of time dead now that you were alive. What does it mean, this equivalence of life and death?

I have always kept track of time this way. I remember when all of a sudden I had known your mother for as long as I hadn’t known her. Time goes on, and now that balance is tipped, weighted in a favorable direction. I’ve known her more years now.

Time will go on and your death will go on. Unstoppable, unavoidable.

These days feel significant, but they are days just like any other days.

I miss you.

 

We got to see your little brother or sister today. Eight tenths of a centimeter long, a little flicker of a heartbeat. Nothing else distinguishable yet.

I was so nervous, waiting for that appointment. Wondering if the ultrasound screen would give me flashbacks to the day I saw your heart had stopped: the horrible stillness of that tiny black hole. But it was okay. Anti-climactic, actually. I feel both relieved, and suddenly more anxious. I am growing another baby, who is alive today—but life isn’t guaranteed, I am painfully aware of that now.

The ultrasound tech called your little sibling a peanut. But I’m not sure that’s right. Your mother and I search for suitable nicknames. It suddenly seems urgent that we have something to call this one other than Baby, because that was what we called you. It’s silly—of course this one is a baby, too. But you were Baby, and this small creature growing in my womb is not you.

You are underneath every part of this pregnancy. Every physical sensation brings a memory. In every moment of excitement and worry, you are there. I like to think of you as watching out for this little sibling, whispering older brother wisdom in my womb. Your cells are in my blood, which means they are in this new baby’s blood, too.

I put my hand on my belly. We are going to be okay, I think. All of us. You, me, the new baby. I cling stubbornly, blindly, to hope.

 

I love you so much.

Mama

 

© Burning Eye

Sometimes grief gets ugly

I tried to draw a picture of me drowning. That same charcoal sea, undulating waves. But no life raft. No bathtub. No one else on the horizon.

But sometimes the sea is so deep it swallows up even the simple curve and smear of charcoal on paper. I can’t draw, I can’t draw, I can’t draw. The paper turns black and muddy. Charcoal dust covers my hands and legs. Words get lost in my brain, some desperate sort of aphasia, and I am reduced to grunts and wails and yelling.

This is what happened to my drawing that I couldn’t draw:

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A therapist many years ago suggested I rip up paper when I feel despair. To slice at it with a razor, ball it up, destroy it.

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Instead of turning this destructive energy on myself, I stab the paper, drag the razor down, opening it up, over and over, shredding it. When the paper is too thin to cut anymore, I tear it into to smaller and smaller pieces.

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A brief catharsis.

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I sit with the wreck of my failure until embarrassment settles in. We are not supposed to fall apart. We are not supposed to wail and gnash our teeth and rend our clothes. We are supposed to go about in a funeral parlor hush, red-rimmed eyes carefully dabbed at with tissues. We are a calm, orderly, stoic culture.

I sweep up the pieces and throw them in the trashcan. I wash my hands, rub the smudges off my calves and feet.

When someone greets me, asks me, “How are you?” I dutifully answer, “Fine, thanks,” and smile.

© Burning Eye

Dear God,

We had the assignment in our support group to write a letter. I wrote my letter to God. I read it last night. Not sure how they took it. It was a very emotional meeting, listening to all their letters. Some to their babies, some to relatives. Lots of tears.

 

Hey, God.

This is the way a friend used to start her prayers. Her gentle voice emerging from our silent circle when we closed our Sunday evening gatherings. Hey, God. So familiar, so personal.

This is the way I used to feel about you.

Now I feel more like Margaret in that Judy Blume book, asking, “Are you there, God?”

Where are you, God?

I used to be able to feel you when I needed you. I used to be able to close my eyes and lean back into your arms. Now I close my eyes and I search for you behind me; I begin to settle back, testing… But I stop, pull up short. It’s like those trust falls. I don’t trust you’re there to catch me.

 

Hey, God!

Fuck you.

I am Jacob, ready to wrestle my angel.

C’mon, I’ve got my boxing gloves on, I’m dancing on my toes, back and forth, back and forth. Ready to tear into you. I’ve worked myself up to this, trained for the anger, fed this fire in me and I’m just waiting to sink my fists into you, let my feet fly, yell and scream with all the fury I can summon.

I know you can take it. I know I can rail and rage against you and you won’t feel a thing. That’s why I need you, God. You can contain me. You can fill me when all else drains away.

What the hell, God? Where are you?

 

Hey,

I am trying to find the right metaphor:

Are we still playing Blind Man’s Bluff? I hear you, I sense you out there, dashing just out of reach. I flail my arms out, casting about for you. I’m getting tired. I’m frustrated. I’m ready to take off the blindfold and let someone else be It.

Are you the horse I have fallen off of? Do I just have to pick myself up and get back on? Wait, why did I fall in the first place? Usually one falls off a horse because the horse throws the rider. It hasn’t been long enough that my broken bones and bruises have healed. I haven’t forgotten how much that fall hurt. I haven’t forgiven you yet.

Are you the ocean, and I am a drop of water? Are you everywhere, within me and without?

Are you the waterfall? Has your torrent slowed to a trickle? Or have I been sitting under you so long my shoulders are numb and my lips are blue and I’ve forgotten I’m soaking wet?

Do you come disguised as a visitor, a friend, a listening ear, a few gentle words that arrive by email?

Are you love?

Are you Light?

 

God,

I don’t know what to pray anymore.

I used to pray to you for protection. I used to ask you favors. I used to pray that you would help everything turn out alright.

Now I’m at a loss for words. They feel futile, anyway. The only prayer I can pray since Joseph died is come holy spirit. And I speak it, and I sing it, and I chant, and I wait in silence, and you don’t come to me. You don’t come.

I contemplate atheism. I take comfort in science, in the laws of nature, the cycle of life and death. Yet I still believe in you. I still know you’re out there, creator, sustainer, redeemer.

But I need you to meet me halfway. Or more than halfway. I used to sing your praises, worship you, give all to you. But for now, I am the least of these. I need you to feed me, to give me drink, to clothe me. I need you to invite me in.

 

I am so weary of all this waiting.

 

© Burning Eye

The ground I walk on

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I meant to upload this when I posted my last poem. They don’t really go together, they were done at different times, but they feel similar. This walking on eggshells. It’s pretty abstract, but I see the eggshells as the ground I walk on, and underneath that thin layer of eggshells is darkness. I have to be really careful walking so I don’t fall through.

© Burning Eye