Stillbirths: All Too Common, Too Much Unknown

To tell this story is to tell its end first. On Sept. 1, 2012, Makenna, the only child of Heather Thompson and Geoff Duff of Alexandria, Va., was born dead. She had been alive in her mother’s womb on Aug. 30, but no heartbeat could be found the next day. Her umbilical cord had knotted, then wrapped around her neck, and, at 39 weeks, she was stillborn. Until her baby’s heartbeat could not be found, Thompson says, the pregnancy had been medically uneventful.

Read the full article here.

Mathematics, Grandmothers, and What Caregivers Need

When I reflect on the question of what caregivers most need, two life-lessons come to me: The first, an expression my grandmother used, the second, something I remember from my undergraduate years as a math student. When I was a child and desperately wanted some thing, my grandmother would say, “Don’t let your wants hurt you.” Instead, she would tell me, be grateful for having what I needed.

The second is a mathematical concept of necessary and sufficient conditions. The concept has to do with the truth of statements—in real life, it is the truth of two conditions.

To read the full post, please follow this link to Caring Across GenerationsCAG grannies.

Photo credit: UDW Homecare Providers Union


what did I mean to save
that day I stood pounding
your chest, fired by urgency
that was not love
but habit
a current that ran once?
I felt it for years
even after it had stopped
and you could not deliver

what did I hope would return
to life that night
with my desperate pleas
my counted breaths
my lips pressed hard
to yours, together

what was left
in the cold spaces
between us, the disruption
like Arctic air pushed south
to Tampa. We were tangled
up in wires

if only I had shut off
that device, the one that jolts
me awake lonely nights
when I reach across a smooth sheet
for your rough hand
closed into a fist
you will never open

key words: DNR, love, grief, poetry, Janice Lynch Schusterleaves on fire

Our Needs Hurt Us

We were beautiful
We were fractured
We had everything
We could not stop looking
We wanted for nothing
We did not know what was ours
We were walking on water
We could not stay afloat
We made a raft of our bodies
We forgot how to swim
We were watching stars
We wanted the sun to rise
Whatever was was not
What we had in mind

Supermoon, for Joyce

The air is so heavy
Even the well notice the labor
of the lungs, and all we take
for granted, that our machines
in their molecular perfection might run
forever. Cicadas’ summer roar
reminds us of forces
beyond our control.

And yet, we charge–the heat,
still humidity, moisture
where oxygen cannot find release.

We go to the river, chasing breezes
and a supermoon. A trick of the eye
and perspective, she is ready
to swallow us whole.

A trompe l’oeil, you grab her
in one hand, offer me this gift
of levity and light, a chance
to breathe easy
in the night’s embrace.


Holding the moon

Trace fossils

I have evidence of a woman
who loved me so completely,
traces of her linger in cells
that line my cheek and ear.
All the years together
we traveled, miles ribboning
behind us as if we might
outlast it all.

The whole weight of her
footprints has gone to dust,
a vessel of memory
scattered to the wind.
Boxes of letters wilt
in the attic heat.
Memory has the words.

Here is my proof,
set in a heart no one
else can ever see:

For a while we roamed
this life, one proud creature.
She fell away
I could not stay.

In the still part of night
I feel her breathe.


A Day Late, but Never Short

Thanks to creative friends, I am participating in a 15-day blogathon hosted by C4Atlanta, whose mission is to bring arts and creativity–and so, joy–to Atlanta and to others in the virtual community. Yesterday, Day 1, was spent in a car, driving through the perilous, dark winding roads of rural West Virginia, trying to get to a ski resort before today’s big storm hits. On the way, in the midst of the usual arguing with spouse, my son became quite ill, but paramedics checked him out, advised us what to do, and we got through the night. He is recuperating today, and I am watching the dark clouds gather outside the window. Slopes tomorrow, words today.

I did write a haiku for yesterday, about my view of my creative life. Here it is:

I pick up my pen.
Critic perched on my shoulder
Cannot slow me down

In response to today’s prompt-brief answers due to arthritic fingers:

1. Have been writing from the moment I knew how, and have always loved the feel of language, play of words, and opportunities to explore my experience, and develop its connection to others’.
2. Where is it going? Hoping to apply my voice to a new project, that I hope will be a biography of an extraordinary woman whose story and work absolutely inspire me. Writing connects people in so many ways, and it has connected the two of us. I cannot wait to tell her story.
3. How evolving? My first love was always poetry, but over the years, have learned to apply my poetic voice to longer, non-fiction work. For some reason, in the last few years, that voice of the essayist has really come to the fore. Some of that is simply because I write all the time. Everything is a possible source, and everyone is a story. I write and write and write.
4. Experience inspires me, and hearing stories from others always inspires me. I have found that my essays in The Washington Post and on Architects of Change for Maria Shriver touch other people. The best moment is when someone sends me a note or even calls to say, “I read your story. It is exactly like my experience. Thank you for telling it.”
5. What next? How to apply all that I know to the very disciplined work it requires to write a biography. I am wide open to suggestions and insights from others.

There! Day 2 of C4Atlanta! I did it.