Browsing Tag

letters

Guest Posts, Miscarriage

Porcelain

July 18, 2021
letter

CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

by Cammie Clark

“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born;
you are my sun, my moon and all my stars.”
~ e.e. cummings

This is a letter to the tile floor in my bathroom––hexagonal and white, grouted a dingy grey. I sit on the toilet, connecting imaginary shapes in the inch-sized pieces beneath my feet. Maybe the tiles are porcelain––they’re always cold––but they’re original, laid into the home about 100 years ago. I live here with my husband and daughter; we don’t own it, but we dream about it. I’m careful of the tiles in here and also of the hardwood floors throughout the rest of the house. I wipe things up immediately––splashes of water, spilled coffee, bodily fluids.

Or maybe this is a letter to the sky blue painted walls of our bedroom, a dreamy color I did not pick but love to get lost in. 375 weeks ago I posted my first post on Instagram––it was a view of these walls from where I lay in bed. I simply captioned it, “Blue”. Because it was and I was, and I laid there for a long time, but this isn’t a letter to the color blue.

I don’t like to turn onto my left side while I sleep––mostly it’s uncomfortable, but I’d also have to contend with my husband’s snoring much too close for my liking as he sleeps on the left side of the bed. Sometimes in the morning, after he is in the shower and the sun has come up and brightened the blue walls of our bedroom, I’ll roll over to my left side and reach my hand out to touch the spot where he was laying––warm still. Just a glance past his pillow hangs a framed graphic print of the stars in the sky, as they appeared on the night of December 5, 2013. This is definitely a letter to that framed print. At the bottom, a quote from e.e. cummings.

This is a letter to my anxiety, and to the morning of Dec. 6, 2013, when I think that something is not quite right. It was still early––too early, except what I mean is there was no sun up yet, no blue walls, no shower or warm spot. I propped myself up––it was too early for me too, at 17 weeks pregnant, to feel not quite right. What was moving? No, what was the movement that was happening inside me? I walked halfway down our short hall and quickly returned, each step agonizing. This is a letter to the edge of the doorway, to the edge of our bed, to the edge of my sanity.

My husband, annoyed by the hall light and by my indecision to go to the bathroom or not, “What’s up? It’s 5:30 in the morning?” he had groaned. “I don’t know––I don’t know, something doesn’t feel right. Just let me go pee.” For a moment, I felt fine and I stood fine, but each step brought a familiar radiating pain that reached around my back and clamped down––hard––into my pelvis. The pain was coming in waves and I was like a wave, ebbing back and forth in the hallway, attempting to drift into my bathroom, unsure if this was all just nothing. I sat on the toilet taking deep breaths–––I counted tiles, then traced shapes like geometric hearts and geometric flowers with their outlines.

This is a letter to my entire bathroom, to its walls and pedestal sink––a place that held me. When something warm and small slid out of me I breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn’t red and for the briefest of moments, everything paused––there was no pain, no early morning nature sounds outside the window, just a magnitude of nothing pressing deep into my ears––I didn’t even move or exhale. I didn’t exhale because I couldn’t, not with the sudden terror and racing heart beat when I realized that the small, yellowish sack that slid out of me was the mucus plug from my uterus.

This is a letter of inevitability.

But I think this letter is also to my body, how it did what a woman’s body does, and with my uterus clamped down into contraction after contraction, I steadied myself over the toilet. I glanced with a fury toward the door, beautiful and ornate as it was but pissed off by the antique door knobs with locks that no longer functioned. I tried not to alarm my husband in that moment because this is also a letter to his childhood trauma and to his sobriety and how if he opened that fucking door I knew all of this would break him, my sweet husband.

I write this letter on behalf of myself, as the woman in the moment, trying not to scream in agony too loud, trying to control the level of terror and disconnect that was taking place in my mind, so much so that I placed both my hands over my mouth, one atop the other, only to release them to say through clenched teeth and sobs: “Don’t you open that door, Timothy! Don’t you open it!”

And him pleading from the other side, “Just tell me what to do––I don’t know––please.“

There was no such thing as time in that moment. So this is a letter to lost time––how my body got it wrong, or maybe got it right, and what I believe about it now is wrong. The physical agony suddenly stopped, but still, I didn’t exhale––because I couldn’t, that racing heartbeat came back as I peered down and saw our baby, still connected to me, swinging upside down from between my legs as I half stood, half propped myself up on the edge of our sink. So much time––lost.

Where do you send a letter like this? To god? Do I write it and then burn into the sky? Or should I consume it––like the way it keeps consuming me?

This is a letter to trauma, to my disjointed self. There is a version of me that only exists in this moment––and she never comes forward with me in time, she’s stuck back there in that bathroom with the beautiful tile. This house, in my mind, comes to me like a diorama, the roof removed and I peer in over the edge. Inside, I am a carefully felted doll––fibers poked and compressed together by pins––save for one long stray thread that’s dangling away from me, unravelling.

“Timothy, get me a plastic bag, hand it to me through the door please.”

“Should I call 911?”

“No, there’s no time. We need to drive ourselves––now.” This is a letter to my curious mind that read book after book about pregnancy risks and knew that an undetached placenta––a placenta accreta––could become a life or death situation very quickly. This is a letter to my grade school daughter, who would be driving by our house with her dad that morning, on her way to school, and did not need to see an ambulance parked out front. This is a letter to my hands and the careful way they cradled our baby like a broken bird, first in the plastic and then a bath towel, still attached to me between my legs. I tucked the baby bird infant against my pelvis and pulled my elastic pajama pants way over the top and waddled out to the car.

“Drive.”

This is a letter to the gurney that was rushed to me in a panic as I stumbled in through the emergency room doors, doubled over and mumbling, and to the nurse’s horrified face when I said “My baby fell out of me” in wretched sobs, my body folding around itself. And that diorama of my home exploding into the deepest recesses of my mind as I imagined splintered pieces of tile and wood and plaster piercing memories of birthdays and holidays past, every precious moment torn asunder.

I thought this letter might also be for the skeptical nurse who questioned the plastic bag, demanding to know what happened–––as if I had done something to our baby–––but there is no letter that comes to mind, only broken pieces of a diorama that no longer resembles a home, and I think maybe if the nurse had just taken my hand, she would have felt the little bits of plaster and tile and wood and understood why I could not fathom my husband wandering out to his car while I lay in a hospital bed and having to wipe the contents of my womb off the passenger seat of our car. Surely even she would see that this is a letter to an almost father.

Perhaps more than anything, this is a letter for my first home: my mother–––I really need my mother; all children do.

But now, this is only a letter to memory. Every now and then, I’ll lay down on that cold, porcelain tile, all of its geometry leaving mathematical indentations on my skin––my body attaching to home like we are being felted together. It’s me looking back up at me, from the bottom of the diorama––like our baby became this place, and this place forever holds me. It is a kindness I’ve imagined for myself.

This is a letter to 375 weeks, to constellations and going home.

Cammie Clark is a Creative Nonfiction student at UCLA, currently workshopping her memoir about being raised by disabled parents while living off the grid in Yosemite National Park. Clark’s work has been published online at The Rumpus, Salon, The Woolfer and Medium, as well as in print for several Bay Area newspapers. She is a professional member of PEN America and is a part of their Prison Writing Mentor Program. She lives with her husband in Half Moon Bay. To see a sampling of her published work, go to to cammieclark.contently.com.

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Although each of Jenny Offill’s books is great, this is the one we come back to, both to reread and to gift. Funny and thoughtful and true, this little gem moves through the feelings of a betrayed woman in a series of observations. The writing is beautiful, and the structure is intelligent and moving, and well worth a read.

Order the book from Amazon or Bookshop.org

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Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Jen's Musings

Letters. Unfinished. Unsent.

March 22, 2014

This is a project I started a over ten years ago. I have a terrible habit of writing letters and never sending them. So I compiled many of them from over the years (1982-2002) and took snippets out to create a sort of found art project. Found poetry and art is one of my absolute favorites so I hope you will enjoy this series. I plan on adding more to the site. Tonight, I sat on the floor in the hallway my pajamas and looked through thousands of poems I had written as well as photographs. It really was the perfect way to spend a Saturday night.

       Various Letters, Unfinished, Unsent

Dear Mom, I wish you best luck. Your my sunshine, my only sunshine of you. I love you ps, Love Jennifer P,  “you make me feel good inside”.”

Dear Daddy, I hope you feel much better soon. I love you so much, best wishes. P.S. Oops I forgot to ask you how you felt! I bet I could make a list full of things I forgot to say I love you how are you doing  please right back xoxoxo Sincerely, love-

Dear Mr. Presidedent, it is Friday Dec. 16th, 1983 and I live in Pennsauken N.J. and you live in Washington D.C. Will you please let me come and visit you sometime. Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! and I really want you to meet my mom and my sister. Because I didn¹t say my dad is because he died will you Please! please! Please! Call or write back! I live in pennsauken N.J. P.S. I know how to spell antidisestablishmentterismn.

Dear Rachel, It’s Sunday night and I¹m supposed to be studying but of course I¹m not. I do this to myself all the time. I get really behind, waste time, procrastinate, have nervous breakdowns and usually somehow in the end manage to pull it all together. but I¹m not so sure about this semester. I wasted my whole today (big surprise there) because I got so drunk and sick last night that today I was a mess. I felt so sick. everyday. I’m so homesick, I don¹t know why. I’m having a crisis I think. New York sometimes is just too much for me. I don’t know. I feel scared in a sense that I’m turning 21. I’m getting old. No more “kid”. It’s weird, sometimes I just want to be a kid again and not have to deal with all the pressures I deal with now. I mean even to be 18 again. I don’t miss high school per se, but I miss that era in my life. That safety you have that you don’t have when you get older anymore. My stomach is still going crazy on me. I had puke all over myself last night. Joe was laughing at me so hard. I just opened the cab door and started puking and he was holding on to my shirt so I wouldn’t go flying out. Then I shut the door but shortly, very shortly, thereafter I realized  “Oh no, I have to vomit again” so I puked all over the door and it hit the window and splattered off of it and hit me in the face and went in my eyes.

Dear Kara, Cherry Hill is famously dull. I am so uninspired here
I haven’t even been down the shore yet this summer
I looked for an apartment yesterday with my mom. It is the hardest thing to find an apartment in the Village. Wednesday I start to get a root canal. My teeth are a wreck.
I am really scared. I cannot deal with pain well.
Now it is the night. Dan is getting on my very last nerve.
He flaked on me, he is getting very good at it.

Dear Daniel, It’s 2:55 a.m. on Sat. night/Sun morning. Chris just called me and said you and Fransisco were maybe going to come here. It would be a waste for just one day. Let’s do it for a real weekend! And I want to come there on Valentine¹s weekend. I have such a stomach ache right now. I ate so much today and so many weird combinations. I had about a million pickles and grapes and raisins. I called your house today to talk to Gabrielle for her birthday. Today was Carl’s b-day. That’s so sad. God, I really didn’t even say a prayer for him today. I will before I fall asleep. I really think Chris is a great person. Francisco better hold on to her. And she loves him so much, she always talks about him and how much she cares about him etc. I just stopped and ate a bowl of cereal. That’s great at 3:35 in the morning. Dan, Dan, Dan. I miss you. I’m going to try and fall asleep. Why am I so awake? It’s just crazy.  I love and miss you. Have a good week and good classes and good workouts. Smile. Love always and forever,

Dear Steve, you were so right about how the best thing that happened to me was Dan and I breaking up. it’s weird because I am finally experiencing what it¹s like to just enjoy meeting different types of people and gong out and not feeling guilty when I do.
I can¹t believe my foot is still messed up from that run I did
when I was there in Atlanta. My mom fears I’m addicted to my painkillers.
I miss hanging out with you. I have a weird feeling it was really random and spontaneous and I won’t see you again for a long time.
I can¹t believe I’m going back to New York in September. I am getting so used to it here.

Dear Dan, Can you believe I have been here in L.A. a week? You know what’s weird?
How things change. You never know where you are going to be,
what you’re going to be doing, who you’ll be doing it with…
I’m glad though that we moved on b/c we are far too young to not have experience
of other people and other things. It’s the next morning now. I passed out in the middle
of this letter last night because of that painkiller. I woke up and my foot actually feels worse.
I just ate cereal and leftover tuna. What’s up with you lately? You seem really moody or something. Is everything okay?

Dear Jeremy, I wanted you to know that seeing you really made my trip. It’s quite amazing to know that you have a friendship so strong that you can go a couple of years without seeing each other and nothing really changes. You just mean a lot to me. You’re one of my oldest, dearest friends and I cherish you. Please come see me in California. Just get the mud off the shoes before you come in my house! (Remember that, from after the wedding?) This is bullshit, the plane still hasn’t taken off.

Dear Dan, I can’t believe how mean Rachel is being. i seriously don’t know how my mom lives with her year round. So, how is it living with the guys? I called you tonight but no one answered. My sister is being unreasonably cruel, mean, bitchy and hard to get along with. she called me a cunt tonight because I called her an uneducated fart. But she started it by saying stupid stuff and fighting about the car situation!
Dear Steve, I forgot to ask you if I left my white turtleneck there? I think I did. The Polo one. God, I am so jealous that you are there having fun, drunk, and I am here moving furniture. I hope you will come here and see me. The offer still stands. but if you don¹t come here let¹s keep in touch. I wish you the best of luck in all you do and I am very happy for you. No one can make me laugh like you can.
I think I will pierce my bellybutton this weekend.

Dear Jeremy, Well hello Jeremy hello! Glad you called me the other day. It was a pleasant surprise.
I was so grateful for your last letter, it really meant a lot to me. Everytime you speak to me or write to me, I¹m not only impressed by your intelligence but also by your drive and determination to see your ideas and visions follow through.. Do you know how great it is to know someone for as long as I have known you and continually be surprised by them? I¹m working on a scene right now for my acting class.

Dear Danny, That look so weird to my eyes because it’s been so long since I have written that. I am on the plane, having just spent a really great weekend in Austin, Texas. I don¹t think I am happy in L.A. but then a part of me wonders,  will I be happy anywhere? maybe it is me?There are so many changes I want to make. I don’t even know where to start

Dear R., this week was a blur…… Fascinating in all ways……. I learned much about myself, about where I want to be, about people and their energies, about mating rituals…… Sitting in cabs I watched the city fly by and knew I was flying with it. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was moving…… Wonder is: people¹s paths crossing and the beauty of them actually connecting. Then the even more minute chance of them connecting on more than a sexual level. The ease with which I can spend time with you and not have to analyze anything. When you have to define something it often changes it because it challenges it by trying to put something in a box that was not meant to be in a box. The magic in how people enter your life. A lot of things came clear to me in NYC this past week. The main one: my life, as well as yours, right now is nothing more than endless possibilities. I am glad that we got to get together. I am grateful for all the little moments.

Dear M., What I said scared me as well. What I said was passionate and impulsive. I felt a lot of things when you were leaving. I will not dissect for you exactly why I said it, nor do I want to. It has everything to do with me, my own crap. What I am saying here is NOT that I take it back. I can¹t. Although, for a while I wished I could. But, that’s immature and, quite simply, impossible.
( If we could take back time, could you imagine? The implications of that?) The whole incident has given me something to write about. It gave me material. it gave me fuel and fire, a muse, an impetus, and, naturally, it gave me some drama. Onward and upward, no looking back…

Dear S, On plane, bloody mary in hand, packed in like sardines. Last week with you was one of the best times of my life. Naturally, I am leaving feeling very confused. You were so amazing to me all week. I know it all seems so random, because it does to me, and yet… It doesn’t seem so random at all. I know you are reading this and probably cringing at the thought that I may actually talk about my feelings. No! No! Not that! I don’t know what¹s going to happen. You just do something to me. When I think of you I smile.

photo

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and over New Years 2015. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.  

She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.