i think i know you

There is a woman at the park we recognize. Work? City Arts? Our mutual friends introduce us. We swap names. She works at the university. She of course recognizes A., who is thin and blonde with distinct features. She barely looks at me.

I glance at her son.

I think we were in prenatal yoga together.

I follow M. around the playground, help her up the ladder. I glance at her son. 3 and a half years old.

Yes, we were in prenatal yoga together when I was pregnant with…

I ask our mutual friends how old her son is. Quietly. Apart.

He was born in January 2013.

Yes.

I do not look again at her son. At how big he is, how old. How he is climbing on top of the tunnel, listening to his parents’ conversation with three-year-old understanding. I do not look back at his dark hair.

Yes, we were in prenatal yoga together when I was pregnant with Joseph, I do not say to her. He was my first, I do not explain at her bewildered glance at my two daughters, assessing their ages.

He died.

Today is not a brave day.

 

© Burning Eye

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.

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There is a sharp divide: Before. After.

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All life becomes fragile.

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Grief covers everything in thick waves.

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It has many colors.

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Sometimes it feels like drowning.

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There is loneliness. The absence of you.

page 8.JPG

 

page 9.jpg

 

Love remains.

© Burning Eye

two and a half (the loss of you)

Walking through the house claiming rooms. Touching this, touching that. Standing on tiptoes to see over. Crouching down to peer under.

Your chubby legs, in shorts for the summer, lengthening. Able to climb onto the sofa without a stool, then onto the bed. Sitting at the table sometimes instead of your high chair.

Your babbles. Your first words. Complete sentences.

Coming around the corner into the room where I stand, calling my name.

Singing songs with vague words, rushing the parts you don’t quite know. Wonderbwidges falling down, f-a-l-l-i-n-g d-o-w-n. Patting your head, clapping your hands, stomping your feet.

Building cities of blocks and Duplos. Towers, houses, cars. Engineering bridges, airports and train stations, roads to and from. Refusing to clean up so your city stays sprawled on the living room rug for weeks.

Jumping on the bed. Throwing yourself backwards, flopping, rolling. Tickle fights. Hearing you laugh. Your giggle.

Resting your head on my shoulder when you are sleepy, or hurt, or sad. Your hair against my nose. Head hot and sweaty.

The weight of you in my arms, heavy.

*            *            *

Joseph was two and a half yesterday.

Joseph never would have been two and a half yesterday.

I still get caught in these subtleties of tense and mood. Are we speaking hypothetically? I ask myself. Possible? or probable?

This grief gets lighter, I think, but more specific.

*            *            *

There are still a handful of people, outside of the family, who remember. Someone remembers to acknowledge my first pregnancy. Joseph’s name spoken here and there. A friend who texts me now and then. I know Joseph is held in the hearts of other babylost friends, even if they don’t say it. Because I am this way, too. Remembering, quietly.

© Burning Eye

one more hour

I held a little baby the other day. A boy, born at 37 weeks, now a week old. He was so tiny. Everything in miniature—eyelids, pointy nose, mouth open in sleep. A little over five pounds, his mother said.

I held this little baby and was so sad, thinking of you. I stared at his face, the only part of him visible in his swaddling. Just like you. I thought of holding you—three weeks younger, 1 ½ pounds lighter. I wished his eyes were your eyes, his nose your nose. I wished I could stroke your cheeks and run my thumb across your lips.

I have been consumed with thoughts of you lately. It is May, after all. The month you were conceived. Three years ago this time, you were just a little seed. An enormous hope. We were so happy.

I say to your mommy tonight, “I’ve been missing Joseph a lot.” And she says, “Me, too. Yesterday was—” Yes, I know. Yesterday was the 27th. 29 months you have been gone. So much time stacked against your short 35 weeks in our lives.

I hold your sister a little closer. Hug her a little tighter. I miss her more when I go to work, and after she goes to sleep at night.

If only I had one more hour with you, I would hold you closer, and hug you tighter. I wouldn’t be so afraid.

 

© Burning Eye

heavy, hollow

Most of the time, I do not think of you in specifics. I do not actively grieve or miss you. You are just there–not there–in the world around me. Your candle on the dining table. Your altar in our bedroom. Your portrait on M’s bureau. Your existence–that you do not exist–is infused into my waking and sleeping, in my veins, pumped eighty times a minute through my heart.

But sometimes, your absence hits me like a punch in the gut, and I feel you, heavy and hollow beneath my ribs, my ghost belly. I want to curve around you protectively and weep and weep for all that we have lost.

this time of year

I’m having a particularly hard day today.

Trying not to think back to those days leading up to Christmas, when I knew something was wrong but didn’t know I knew. Trying not to think about which day was which, what I did on the 22nd, or the 23rd, or the 24th. It’s enough knowing that on the 25th I felt my little boy’s last movements. It’s enough knowing that on the 25th we learned he was dead. Enough knowing it’s been two years now.

No, it’s not “enough.” It’s too much. Some days it’s just too much.

I have a poem up on Glow this week. A small thing. A quiet thing. I have so much to say, but it’s all jammed up in my head. Beginnings of sentences. Middles of tirades. Ends of sobs. None of it feels new. And I am reminded that this is what trauma is–a wound that may heal but leaves a scar that aches on rainy days. And that there are triggers that take me right back there. To the grief. To the loneliness. The isolation. The touch of death in my womb. The fear that I could spread it.

Being there–here–is so familiar.

I guess some days I feel like I’ve really reached a place people call the “new normal.” Our little family is doing well, me and A and baby M and our absent little boy. But “normal” implies somewhat like everyone else, and days like today I remember that we are not like everyone else. We are apart, the babylost. Forever changed.

© Burning Eye

he might have liked trains

photo-21

“He might have liked trains,” she said.

And we both teared up, staring at the toy on the bottom shelf.

He might have…

Dear Little One, sweet Joseph, this would have been your birthday present. Two years old.

Instead, this will be your second stillbirthday present, bound for the pediatrics ward at the hospital, for other children to play with.

© Burning Eye

pieces

I think about you every day.

The day you died. That last time I felt you move. My sister’s house, the shirt I was wearing, the wheelchair ride up to the maternity ward.

The day you were born. Crying, crying, crying. Holding the featherlight bundle that was you.

Every day I remember these things. Every day.

Every night I glance up to your portrait on M’s wardrobe. I kiss her cheek three times. Mama te quiere. Mommy te quiere. Y Baby Joseph te quiere.

I may not write much, but I think about you every day.

 

Today, I have a piece up on Glow.

 

© Burning Eye