Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dark Passages


A pink stripe! 
It's positive!
Destiny prevails
screaming, “This shall be!”
Ten lunar months shall pass
with or without her participation.

She engages in the battle of denim
as the expanding belly is declared The Victor!
And with it comes the tearful quest
toward acceptance of new self
and elastic waistbands.

Tup-tup, tup-tup, tup-tup.
Their eyes dance to the beat
of their unborn sister’s heart.
Lessons esoteric
And then off to the sandbox...

What is happening?
Could it be? Yes, a gesture of life.
Maybe just her stomach? Must be indigestion-
No! Again…the flutter of her baby.
It is 2 a.m.
No words. 
Just silence and a moment, 
a sacred moment. 

Tears of joy accessorize the day as
dancing bears and mint green lambs
adorn the walls.
The bassinet awaits to become the warm, safe place
second only to the nest of her arms.

Three weeks remain now.
All eyes turned toward her, waiting for her masterful performance.
She deletes days of the calendar in her mind, July 7, 8, 9...
It is 2 a.m.
Hurry, hurry, hurry.
She fights her body to let her rest. 
Elusive sleep is
her only escape from the exhaustion, swelling,
and pain of the tenth month.

Six pillows and bathroom run three.
Her ankles engorged.
The sacrifice of self is palpable.
 At times, she feels
trapped in her own body. 
Vulnerable. Frightened.
It is 2 a.m.
The journey has taken its toll.

Two more days.
It is 2 a.m., and she gently strokes her abdomen unaware
that their hands meet, 
separated only by a few layers of skin and veins
that carry oxygen through her pulsing cord.
They are one.

The sun rises, bringing the morning saunter
but this day will be different.
She collapses as if in prayer
as her body convulses in excruciating pain,
Oh my, God!

Too fast…it is all too fast.
Rushing, rushing…get the doctor!
She is term, contractions every minute…she’ll be ready soon!”
Excited, yes, but scared too! It is happening so fast.
The culmination of her sacrifices
finally yielding the reward.

"It will be worth it, it will be worth it," her mantra.

She fights tears through the ebb and flow of the contractions.

A hodgepodge of white coats, 
medicine men and women,
unrecognizable faces sharing in the moment
schooled by choice to bring life into the world.
With brazen confidence the man who will guide
the passage from the womb’s safety meets her glance.
And then, 
faces transform. 
There is only silence interrupted 
by her moans and the sweat trickling down her forehead.

Their smiles crash like glass,
glances unfamiliar to her.

“What is happening?” she asks in between the pains that command her attention.

No response, 
only looks of panic exchanged between scurries.
screaming repetitions of nothingness.

“What is happening!?”
Terror ravages every cell in her body.
His heart is callused like a laborer’s hands.
The diagnosis, detached, is louder than anything she's ever heard:
“Your baby is dead.”
“Your baby is dead.”
“Your baby is dead.”

Please, please turn the volume down.

Contractions every thirty seconds.
No time to think. No La Maze. Too much pain.
Unimaginable pain.
Physical. Spiritual. Mental. Emotional.

“What? No. No. No. No. NO!”
She tries to get up from the bed,
but they hold her down like a prisoner.
What crime has she committed?
No. I'm leaving. I'm going home.”
Stupid, mindless people. Liars.

She protests,
as the contractions bound her and kick her,
and punish her.
Sweat and sorrow
rain like fire from her temples.
Push, push, push.
She can feel her child being born.
Head, elbows, chest. Finally feet emerge
from her Judas body.

Someone puts the camera on slow motion.
Frame by frame, outside herself she watches.
Eyes clenched tight
awaiting, baited breath.
Cry, baby. Cry for mommy,” she pleads in her mind as
she negotiates unsuccessfully: Her life for the baby's.
Still she is gone.

Pink, white, and blue are the choices,
not for lacy dresses but for caskets.
They ask her to choose. 
Looking around the formaldehyde-incensed room, planning her escape,
she cannot see, as the tears asphyxiate her.
Falling to the cold tile
"This just cannot be," she recites repeatedly.

The second hand is in a hurry today.
She begs it to stop, but the time has come.
Reluctantly she places her into the pastel casket
and she bends over to kiss her one final time
as milk burns her breasts in disapproval

she will bury her beautiful girl, 
all eight pounds, 
with dark curly hair and porcelain skin.

Cathedral flowers are tied with ribbons of sorrow, and
black limousines stand at attention.
Her anesthetized consciousness fades
in and out, as the sun dances
between summer clouds.
And from the earth that swallows her child
she begs acquittal.

Months later and her mind becomes a dangerous stranger.

bursting explosions, dragging her through the muddy waters of grief
forcing her to swallow the poison of reality,
blinding her, confusing her.
Senseless propaganda in her ears about God's will and time healing and
still stinging reminders around every corner.

It is 2 a.m.
She curled into her pain, like an embryo
her body bleeding in defiance.
Her soul lay mortally wounded
amongst the shadows
on the dark closet floor
where her elastic-waisted garments hanged,
anointed with French vanilla
 and where no one witnessed
  as she invited Death to come.

But He declined her offer.
Another time, perhaps?
He left her in the carnage.

Like Gretel, she searches for crumbs of hope
to guide her through the forest,
through the passages of the deepest torment she will ever know.

Not one in the millions
of peoples, languages or philosophies
can begin to speak of
the true torment of a mother
whose child has been ripped, without mercy
from her burning arms.

2,190 days.
Six phantom years.
 But love does not decompose as flesh.

Memories try to sneak away when she is not looking.
The alarm sounds and quickly she brings them home.
Edges of the photographs are time-faded and worn from too much handling,
so she juxtaposes scenes from two worlds
and escapes to the voices of a thousand ghosts.

Yet, in the underground passages of her mind
through the only pardon from darkness
shines the light of hope.
The beauty born of pain

Now she walks the forests thick with grief.
Like Gretel, leaving crumbs for others,
to find their way
and to discover.

It is 2am. 
Over and over again.

© 2000, Joanne Cacciatore


Passages are noble entrances that pull us forth
To places we sometimes don't dare to go.
We believe the door should be vibrant, welcoming
But understand,

it is the dark passages that make us grow
If all our paths were kind
They could never weep tears into the soul
And therefore the ground we boldly stand upon
Would always be shallow...
It is only a passage
We must hold and humbly pass.



Joey C Johnson said...

WOW! I have no words, just love in my heart.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you Jack's momma. I've gotten a lot of private responses to this piece. I appreciate the love.

Hello I'm Lala! said...

OMG!! Thank you. This is the first time I read something that gets as close to what I'm feeling/felt when my second son was stillborn at 40 weeks 6 days.
Thank you.

Millylynn said...

I have followed your research for a number of years and only recently discovered this blog. I am a bereaved mother and am completing my MSW with an interest in palliative care, grief and bereavement. Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment through this profound poem.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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