heavy

The news comes in the morning:

We lost him.

They did an emergency c-section.

 

It is pouring outside and I

Am nursing our baby

who shared his due date.

She, 8 days early,

Alive.

He, 2 days late,

Dead.

 

Their nightmare opens wide before me

A ton of bricks falling in slow motion, all day,

Piece by piece

On my bruised, heavy heart.

 

Over and over

I relive our own shock,

Our own early days.

Hearts, breasts, eyelids swollen from weeping.

I hear the echo of myself wailing.

 

As if, in reliving,

I could save them from the pain.

 

I go to sleep and wake again.

He is still dead.

 

I nurse our daughter again, alive.

He is still dead.

 

This world is wholly unfair.

One dead, one alive.

 

They will wake each day to the loss of him.

Each day a new insult:

The box of Enfamil samples on the front porch,

The coupon in the mailbox for nursing bras,

The email discounts on their baby registry.

 

I’m sorry, I whisper to each of them in the dark.

Because there is nothing else I can do.

 

© Burning Eye

 

Advertisements

she looks like you

Joseph, your new baby sister E is here. Safe and sound, born alive, still breathing these twelve days later. I wrote this poem for her, for you.

 

 

In the dark she looks like you.

Lips parted, mouth open

Tiny chin sunken.

Asleep

Or dead.

Afraid, I lean closer,

Waiting for a breath,

Peering at swollen newborn eyelids.

They are cracked,

Seeing—what? -–in the dark.

 

My mother tells me of this vision as I go into labor:

An angel bringing her to me.

I am shaken.

I hang up the phone as quickly as I can and try to banish it from my mind,

Thinking only of my father battling Death,

His vivid dream

As you lay dying inside me.

 

She meant well, my mother.

She saw it as cheerful, and safe.

But I do not think of angels this way.

 

I say a swift prayer

cross my fingers

make a sign to ward off the evil eye

 

No, I do none of these things.

I do not see the world this way.

 

I only hold your mother’s hand.

She is my comfort.

 

Maybe it is Joseph, bringing her to us,

Your mother says,

Tears in both our eyes.

I shake my head slightly.

How would I know, if it were you?

 

I search for you in the shadows of your new sister’s eyes and mouth.

I hold her thin body close,

Lips against her forehead.

I never kissed you.

 

How would I know, if she were you?

 

© Burning Eye

grief in pictures

A few months ago, I made a little book of water colors. An abstract children’s book about grief. I picture it as a board book, each page spread a new, bright, glossy watercolor, with a simple line of text below. The color saturation here doesn’t quite do it justice, but here it is…

page 1.JPG

Death, when it comes, cracks everything open.

page 2.JPG

There is a sharp divide: Before. After.

page 3.jpg

All life becomes fragile.

page 4.JPG

Grief covers everything in thick waves.

page 5.JPG

It has many colors.

page 6.JPG

Sometimes it feels like drowning.

page 7.JPG

There is loneliness. The absence of you.

page 8.JPG

 

page 9.jpg

 

Love remains.

© Burning Eye

I remember this body

I remember this body.

 

The sudden softness of belly skin,

a tender curling inwards

over fresh emptiness.

 

A disbelief.

 

The rib cage spread wide,

trying to remember how to

settle

and close.

 

A lightness.

 

I remember this freckle,

hidden for months

under my roundness.

And the slight brown curve of the linea nigra.

 

These breasts, heavy with milk.

 

In labor I cried.

I want both my babies.

I want to birth both my babies.

 

But I had already birthed you.

 

Mothered my emptiness.

 

This body—

stretched,

worn,

but strong—

has birthed both our babies.

 

The linea nigra fades.

I have new scars now,

red stria

clawing the soft curve of my belly.

 

This body,

once hollowed by death,

These arms,

aching with your absence,

These breasts,

heavy with milk

 

nourish a new life.

 

 

© Burning Eye

expecting

“I didn’t know you were expecting again,” she says.

 

I put my hands

to my twenty-seven week belly.

 

Expecting

to feel my baby’s last kick,

the deep abyss of stillness that follows.

 

Expecting

the hollow silence

underneath my lone heartbeat.

 

Expecting

every day

my daughter will die like her brother.

 

My friend’s baby—

a rainbow—

over a year now,

pulls on her legs,

gives me a suspicious look

over her shoulder.

 

“Yes,” I say.

 

I rub my hands over the skin where

my daughter sleeps underneath.

Later, she will wake up,

gently kneading hands or feet,

crossing or uncrossing legs,

pushing into my right side

like her brother used to do.

 

For a moment,

I will be reassured.

 

Expecting

her first cry

as she is placed

on my chest,

new and wet.

 

Expecting

to swaddle her,

name her,

bring her home.

 

Expecting

my daughter to live.

 

“Yes,” I say. “Yes. I am

expecting.”

 

*        *         *

One more week. Or less. Expecting–wishful thinking, really–each day to go into labor. Saturday is Week 39, our voluntary induction day. It’s time to meet this little girl on the outside.

 

© Burning Eye

the shape of you

You have become the shape of your name.

Two syllables more familiar to me than your face—

jo

seph

 

You become the shape of each letter.

jo

The curve of J that fits into my empty arms.

The o an open place your absence occupies.

 

-seph

We say it differently, your mother and I.

She, a rich vibration of sound;

I, a whispered second syllable. Sibilant s.

e that tucks into my womb, pressing against my heart.

The ph an exhale, a sigh, a longing.