In January, at Ohalah, I had a miscarriage. Every pregnant woman knows it is possible, but I doubt anyone feels prepared when it happens.
I was amazed by how many women came up to me, as word quietly spread, and said that the same thing had happened to them. Having tangible proof that I was not alone -- that this was survivable -- helped me through.
My mashpi'a (spiritual director) suggested that I consider writing poems as I moved through the experience and its aftermath. Writing offered me a way to externalize the roil of emotions. I wrote my way through the experience, and then as I felt ready I began to revise the drafts. To take the raw outpourings of my heart and turn them into poetry.
I wrote these poems because writing them helped me heal -- and because I wanted to offer them to other women who go through this. And to those who are caring for the women who go through this. So here they are.
I want to thank this small manuscript's many readers: Sandy Ryan, Emily Banner, Ethan Zuckerman, Alison Kent, Dave Bonta. I also want to thank the editors of the journal Frostwriting, in which two of these poems -- "Knowledge" and "Threshold" -- were first published online, one in an earlier form. And I want to thank everyone who cradled me at Ohalah: my room-mates from the hashpa'ah intensive and the conference itself, the friend with whom I led services, my hevrutot and spirit buddies, and the many of my teachers and friends who held me, prayed for and with me, and offered blessings both tangible and intangible.
Through exists in a few different formats. The first is a limited hand-bound edition of twenty copies, graciously created by Alison Kent. That edition is not available online, nor for sale. I've given a few of those copies away; I'm hanging on to the rest, for now. I find healing in being able to hold them in my hands.
There is also a downloadable digital version and a print-on-demand chapbook version. The downloadable version (pdf format, linked above) is free for the taking; the POD chapbook is available at cost ($4.82, linked above), and no profit will be made from its sales (by anyone except the postal service.) It's important to me that these poems be available for free (or as close to it as possible); I'm putting them out there not to make money but to offer a window into this surprisingly common experience of grief and healing.
And if you're interested in hearing the poems read aloud, here's an mp3 version of the collection: Through.mp3. If you can see the embedded audio player below, you can listen to them poems that way. (Thanks to Dave Bonta for the suggestion of releasing the poems in audio form.)
I hope that these poems will be shared widely. Please feel free to print them or save them electronically. Forward them to anyone you think would find them valuable: as prayers, as poems, as one telling of the hidden story so many women undergo but no one ever seems to tell. If you want the chapbook edition, pick one up (hey, given the cost of shipping, pick up two and give one away!) or share the URL with friends. Someday I hope to create an online edition of the collection, which would allow folks to link to individual poems and to move between them in some simple way; stay tuned.
As an enticement to read, the first two poems in the collection are beneath the extended entry tag. Or, you can read a preview of the chapbook (the first few pages) here at lulu. I welcome feedback of every kind.
You are two blue lines
forming a cross
the unknowable, dancing
on the head of a pin
potential coiled, poised
to change everything.
I am reeling as if tipsy
awestruck and unglued.
This must be how God feels
holding all of us
with quiet compassion
in creation's womb.
but I didn't want to know
turned away from knowing
I put myself to bed
such uneasy sleep
and when I woke
in the hotel bathroom’s
That's where the manuscript begins. Over the course of its ten poems, I think it moves to a different place. I hope you'll read the poems, and respond, and share them with others. Thanks, y'all.
Edited to add: In April of 2013, Phoenicia Publishing -- which brought out my 2011 collection of Torah poems, 70 faces -- published my collection of poems written during the first year of parenthood, which chronicle my struggle with postpartum depression and my journey into healing, along with the surprises and wonders of caring for a new child. For those who would find such a collection meaningful or compelling, you can find it here: Waiting to Unfold.