Four

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I remember you every day.

Every day.

You were only here for an instant in my life. And yet you were a cataclysm. Just in the way I cannot imagine what you would have been like had you lived, I cannot imagine what I would be like if you’d lived.

The mother I have become, because of you.

The children who live, because of you.

The God who remains distant, because of you.

*             *             *

Tomorrow will be my last post at Glow in the Woods. It has been four years now since my baby boy died and was born, three and a half writing at Glow. Since E’s birth seven months ago, I’ve know this year would be my last at Glow, that Joseph’s fourth stillbirthday would be my last post.

The first months of grief, I couldn’t understand how any of the writers could leave. How I could stop writing about Joseph. How grief could change. How I could learn to live with my firstborn’s absence. But I have lived into all of those once inconceivable things. And I know that leaving Glow is not abandoning the memory of my son. It is just simply time for whatever is next.

© Burning Eye

 

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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…

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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.

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Love remains.

© 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.

today, 1/31

My sister calls to tell me being an adult sucks. She says, You’d think things like addiction, losing your job, and babies dying were rare events. But they’re not. They happen all the fucking time.

Her dog is dying. Died. Today.

Today, your due date, Little One.

Due date, shmoo date, my brain retorts. It shouldn’t mean anything. This date was always hypothetical. My sentences cycle into the conditional tense of some parallel life that I can barely imagine. Yet I try. You would have been two, if you’d been born today. We would have already experienced these firsts I have with your sister. I would have been a different kind of mother. I might have—maybe, probably—been pregnant again, or you might have even had a brother or sister that could not now possibly exist.

It feels as far away from now as a distant star. Something incomprehensible, like how we see its light even if it died millions of years ago.

Two years ago today we drove ourselves to the butterfly house and stood, fragile creatures that we were, among them and saw your paper kite butterfly for the first time.

This morning as I am getting dressed your sister fingers the black lacy lines of your butterfly tattoo on my shoulder. But it just feels like skin and she quickly turns her attention to the more interesting bumps and moles on my chest.

Your new cousin was born this morning. Another little girl. We get the news at lunch, and a picture. I search her face for you.

I will always be doing this. Looking for you. Wondering. The way expectant parents do, only your gestation has become my whole life.

It could just be a day, A says. I think she is trying to say today doesn’t have to mean anything.

But it’s too late.

Today, already, a birth, a death. When two years ago there was nothing. It was all over by then, your birth, your death. Our lives, already derailed onto those parallel tracks, and us, already hurtling here, away from you.

I realized last night I no longer relive your death every day.

But I do say good morning to you every day, and you and I, we say goodnight to your sister each night. I think of you, not so much as you would have been, but as you were, so briefly.

A faint glimmer of starlight still reaching me.

on the night you were born

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“On the night you were born,

the moon smiled with such wonder

that the stars peeked in to see you

and the night wind whispered,

‘Life will never be the same.’

Because there had never been anyone like you…

ever in the world.

So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain

that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.

The sound of your name is a magical one.

Let’s say it out loud before we go on.”

Joseph

“It sailed through the farmland

high on the breeze…

Over the ocean…

And through the trees…

Until everyone heard it

and everyone knew

of the one and only ever you.”

–Nancy Tillman

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

quiet

Friday afternoon.

I look up and realize the building is quiet. Lights are off, doors are closed. So familiar we are with each other that we no longer say goodbye, have a nice weekend, see you Monday.

Just, suddenly, I am one of the only ones left.

It is this way with the babylost community, it seems. Blogs go down, mothers stop updating. A baby is born, the announcement a final post. Time passes and grief’s screams quiet to whispers, the occasional sob. The words trickle away.

It is not quite two years since Joseph died and those who have walked this timeline with me have fallen away.

I have fallen away.

I remember when Joseph first died I read hungrily. I went back over and over and over to the same writers who helped me find my way through grief, and I was so angry when they stopped writing. Because I needed them, I didn’t understand that they no longer needed those like me. The lost. The babylost.

I rarely visit the community anymore. It is too hard to read the new stories of loss. I scroll through blogrolls and comments and I don’t recognize the names anymore. My cohort has come and gone. Most without saying goodbye.

It’s not intentional, this quiet. It just is.

Sometimes, when I have a moment, I indulge the sadness. I take a walk. I sit at the computer on a rare solitary evening and open my heart, check the tender places, whisper Joseph’s name.

And Finn. And Little Sun. And Peregrine, and Anja, and others.

I remember.

© 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