“To Linger on Hot Coals” by Stephanie Paige Cole and Catherine Bayly

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I don’t know what is wrong with me — this should have been the first book I read!  This is an incredible collection of poems about the pain of losing a baby. Somehow in my grief I got confused (on this and so many things) and registered this book in my head as a collection of short stories, not poetry.  Doh.

The foreword by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, author of Bearing the Unbearable, is worth the price of the book alone. All the poems here are good, and some are great.  I’ve shared a few of my favorites.  Obviously I’m a fan of Stephanie Paige Cole’s writing style, who is one of the editors.

Stillborn, adj. ; Catherine Bayly

One week later, I looked up stillborn.
Feeling too done-before, and shocking
in its frequency, and like a dirty word
that was something that described us,
science or statistics that made my mouth
constrict and then soften with moisture.

I went to the library to do it, feeling
guilty and disgusted reading about
myself in my own dictionary, but
theirs was great yellowed white,
crackling pages, millions of words
and people looking for themselves.

there, I found a moth pressed
between the pages, like its own
little translucent, ephemeral leaf,
with veins for words, and blood
drained out, and more years dead
than living, and through its forewing

I read (of an infant) born dead.

Untitled I; Stephanie Paige Cole

What would you have done differently she asks, if you could
go back?

He closes his eyes tightly, trapping hot tears
He swallows hard
She shouldn’t have asked
He’s reliving it now
He didn’t want to
He wanted to watch TV
It has been years
He shakes his head no.

The puppy whines at the door and he’s sure that dog is a
saint
He touches her arm as he leaves the room
You can’t go back, there’s nothing you could have done
He grabs the leash and walks out the door
She closes her eyes, drifts back to that sad winter
She doesn’t go back as far as he does
She knows she cannot save her
She just wants to see her
Feel the weight of her baby back in her arms
She sighs just a little as she answers her own question
More kisses, more photos, more time

Sacred; Stephanie Paige Cole

Your life began and
ended within my womb I
am a sacred space
because of you

The Physics of Losing You; Anne Morris

Law.
Not human laws–necessary, breakable–
but Universal.
Fact.

An object in motion stays in motion

You were moving, all the time.
Somersaults, kicks, full body rolls.
And for us, life was surging ahead,
each day closer to meeting you,
each day closer to the rest of our lives,
all the momentum of motherhood.

And then–stop.
Your heart.
Our hearts, our future.
Our baby, no longer in motion.

Our baby, breaking the laws of the universe.

(How conveniently I forget the second part,
even now whispering it under my breath:
…unless acted upon by an outside force.

Not a car crash, not the germ of infection,
not the thundering hand of God.

For you, not external but internal,
a fatal twist
a cruel accident from inside the womb.)
An object at rest stays at rest.

The tiny circle of your heart, so still.
So still and silent that not even the force
of our prayers, our screams, our love,
our labor
could move you again.

Dear baby, breaking the laws of our universe.

I dreamed you were the sun; Stephanie Paige Cole

I dreamed of you once
raven haired child with
laughing brown eyes
you are the moon
white full and watching
illuminating the world
but not quite enough
you aren’t the way you
were in my dreams

I dreamed you were the sun

January; Stephanie Paige Cole

Cold and complicated
You hold within your grip
the best and worst that life has to offer
Death, birth
in that twisted order
I curse you for your cruelty
and bow down to your beauty
I beg you to be gentle with me
You break me every time.

2 thoughts on ““To Linger on Hot Coals” by Stephanie Paige Cole and Catherine Bayly

  1. Sounds like one worth getting, thanks for sharing.

    Like

    1. if you like poetry, then absolutely. even if you don’t like poetry, I think it’s incredibly powerful when someone else can capture the pain you’re experiencing. we’re not alone.

      Like

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