The hand strikes A forgettable second Within a minute of infinities A single beat The heart stops Unknowing, silence befell within Maybe yesterday
A bustling room, waiting A bed on a register Ice-cold gel Smiles convert to frowns Twin mask I already know Before the backup arrives The child is gone
Dead inside the fluid of life Everything stops The hand keeps ticking More minutes Other rooms Happier stories
Floating deceased In my belly remained Bodies reluctant to depart Tear apart
Keep her in Maybe life will begin again It was a pause A monitor fault A technical blip Chest tightens Throat clams shut Tears won't cease Beneath the duvet Fort of solitude Alone Grief spreading from belly to bone
One last weekend Of motherhood pretend Viscous connection Umbilical short circuit My belly her deathbed
Many strikes later The hours had fallen away Empty cotton cave Just us No heartbeat still No rush to move I could've held her there forever
Chemical help swallowed Washing away The static infinity
Another day Another dose Grief and planning ahead Terms aired before taking the bed Alter of birth
In that other room Hidden from coos Expectant cries Life to life Mine was the room Of quietus For the mother of death Me As I always knew As I had been before In another place Another time Another father
Here I was now Mother of death again My terms they'd meet Another pain for later Pacification for the morning shift My mourning moon
The contractions Too soon Too late Pregnancy infraction This labour of death Babe's birth unto death Ultimate labour of love Combusting a broken star
Then she was there Stillborn silent The hand struck A mallet to a gong The child is gone
Another moment Rooting time Nothing and everything I know where I was then As is this day
With every score She was no more And evermore My sweet tiny girl Embossed in flesh How I held her after Within my clammy palms Tattooing her existence From one bleary orb to the other weary
Sinking into dark silence The void sucking me in
One night of her Held in mother's hands Eyes burned Taking her in Her translucent skin The curves of her mouth Fine fingers ten My jelly baby star
Updated cover for ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back‘— May 2021.
March 2018, working on and releasing this book was my first time venturing into publishing independently. Being so intimate, I didn’t consider sending proposals to publishers. It could be said that this was my baby for my babies. I’ve always been a writer, but publishing was a way for me to show an example of fearlessness and gratitude to my girls, a lesson that they have taught me, with so many others.
On this, I did everything solo; writing, editing, working with feedback from my very supportive pre-readers, formatting for digital and print, cover design, promotional material and publishing. It’s effortless for those who don’t understand the labour and learning that goes into self-publishing (let alone doing so with something so profoundly personal) to dismiss those who choose that route, like myself, as amateur or playing a vanity game. That could not be further from the truth for many writers who choose to self-publish or join forces with small press’. I touched on this a little recently; https://clanwitch.com/2021/04/06/publishing-which-way/
It’s been three years now since ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ was released, and there are a few niggles that I often think about changing.
The first is editing. This was my first time editing something at this length, a piece that was (is) as intimate as a diary, journeying through a very traumatic time when it hadn’t even resigned itself to the ‘past’ yet. My heart and head were still sore. On top of that, I can admit that my skills have developed since this publication — I would love to go back and improve. For now, though, with so many other commitments, the past will have to wait, maybe one day. Truthfully, it’s a place I’m not ready to re-visit.
The second is that I’ve never been fully happy with the cover, which I have re-worked and updated. The image of the dandelion, particularly when seeding, has always been one in nature that I find poignant and inspiring. This image, this flower commonly regarded as a weed, represents so many ideas; resilience, strength, perseverance, endurance, determination, life cycles, and innocence. Pairing this with the rainbow’s significance in parenthood (symbolic of a child born after loss; the joy after the storm).As simple as it may be, I love the intertwining of the seeding dandelion head and rainbow. The fit with ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back‘ feels right.
Gnashing and gnawing at my innards Viscera shredded; trauma tombs embedded Stitch in bells, weigh down the nauseating flapping Jangle a euphonious jingle Steady placement of chinked shield Conceal agonies.
U-bend blocked There my guilt brims Shame for wishing away rapid cell division Liquor and voluntary scalding Natures way away Life folding poured out Out of Order; terror of disorder
For two, a freshly dug hole The morning after Mourning follows Nipping at heals with the snow A hollow in another garden There, a piece of my heart lays A depression for my first’s succession
She wants to see my torment on display To harvest in morbid grief games Pretend she’s just the same Catfish loss-mother Conspiring tiring Yearning to reap from the suffering leaks of my soul Observe my lamentations trapped in a fishbowl To don a cape, be in control Prodding my wounds, infecting
Imitation empath storing stories Catalogued, indexed, held hostage Latching of grief vampires Sucking ephemeral life’s marrow Chipping stones off my bones
An archaeologist scraping the shovel No delicate brushing of bristles Attention desperation Desecrating my pain Self-appointed steward on my cradle’s grave.
This picture doesn’t look real… Like there’s a filter; to enhance, to hide, deceive the eye. Shielding a painful reality; it was a painful reality. The mind, like the camera, does this all on its own. This picture doesn’t look real… A reflection of how it felt; a blue hue, a hazy dream. Everything thrown out of balance. A reality that swallowed you up, yet one that could barely be touched. Spinning lost through electrical sparks. A new reality at the edge of everything. At the edge of all the mattered and all that didn’t. A steady calm or frozen panic; so close to the same. Something else on the edge; the blurred borderline where the unreal is real.
The breeze wafted through the thick deep orange curtains. Bathing the drab third floor flat. Manky midden air from the rising summer heat mingled with the rising damp of the crumbling tenement walls. A fresh lick of paint only tricked the eyes. Festering rot just beneath that thin surface. Gemma sat in the corner of the living room, face blotchy red in desperate tears. Huddled into her baby wrapped in his pale blue teddy blanket. Dead. Still. Rocking back and forth quietly sobbing; “I just needed you to stop screaming, just for a minute.”
“You can wake up now, Teddy…”
(C) Natasha Sinclair 2019.
Previously published by Writingwriters.net for Drabble #5