thFrom Germany to Australia your parents fled

the brush of taint

your mother a beauty

your father with only enough room in his heart

for singular devotion

when she died, cut down by trolley car in front of you

aged six, catching the splatter of her broken skull

he took you into his bed to make up for her absence

you grew wan on divulgence of sin

til neighbors found out and your doors were broken

three men in uniform standing around the bed

get out they said

the smear of their inferred condemnation thick in your ears

like river mud swallowing you up among grubs and slugs

who blames a child for her abuse?

those who know nothing of truth, shining their finery with glass

you walked the line all the way to a foster home with metal teeth

thrown out at 17 for falling in love and shaming their Baptist ideals

as you and he prepared to marry he rode his bike in the night to pick up

his mother’s narrow ring

skidding on freak ice on the way back his head caved in like an exploding star

you stood at the altar alone waiting

impatient clock showing

he will not attend

afterward with nothing, there was no reason to stay

someone said like they do before you pass 20

let’s go to India

so you packed up your emptiness, put your leather sandals on

high in the Himalayas you caught the fever and nuns with tight wrapped mouths

whirled with lines and decay

nursed you as you slipped in and out of consciousness

liquid and sorrow pouring from you in bucket loads

a miracle! they announced when clawed your way back

what did you have to live for? being the whispered irony

and there, in the desolation of knowing nothing you walked

kept on walking until your feet blistered and your soul took flight

in the low hanging mangrove trees

where at night the shadows looked like an epiphany and you decided

I will return to my native land, the one of my ancestors

you wrote a distant aunt, she replied; come to the black forest we have

mud that will cleanse you of your sorrow and broad-shouldered men

Germany with its fairy tale castles and starched people rolling their own

you clambered over your wreckage, beginning again as only the young can

a flutist falling in love with your dark eyes and shiny thick Germanic hair

a marriage led to loneliness, he toured, you waited, touching his absence

with lightest fingertip

until it seemed being without him, would fill you more than staying put

traveling to Greece alone, you burned and burned and burned

turning yourself into oak

a waiter slept in your bed and kept you cool

against the battering murmur of sea tapping at french windows

life grew inside of you

when you took your first real job in London’s garish metropolis

heaving with anticipation and empty suitcases of hope

your daughter gave you the first peace you ever knew

a perfect child with a little mouth and large eyes

your Greek baby she lay in the curve of your hips smiling

and you breathed, deeply, and slow

like a long traveled bird finds purchase and easement

on empty shore

she, with her little tiny fingers and little feet

died of crib death just as

a match can be blown out never to

be re-lit

feeling like she hadn’t existed and she couldn’t be gone

here was your second decade of sorrow

etched between your fine eyes and deep clavicle

WHY? was not a word you used

absent of all

living only because your chest deemed it necessary to rise and fall

in time to your still-born ache framed

in reluctant silver requiring continual polish

you wanted to hurl yourself out of existence

yet you flourished as if life had said

we have taken and now we nourish

you grew successful, wealthy, every night you tucked yourself up

alone in a singletons bed

until the smell of the sea on the shores of Australia called you

it’s been eighteen years and it’s time

to come home

passing over Sydney Opera House you saw

the curve of sky and water meet

something within you released

he seemed to be waiting in the first corner you turned

as if always there, just ready to reveal

his promise to stay

with time they say pain subsides

which you know isn’t quite true

though love can keep together broken halves

by its stubborn hold on people who

would otherwise fracture and become

light on water skimming surface

it was not fair,  it was not right

now you are back in your homeland where

you began and will draw to a close

I hope

with the knowledge that even lives

built on pyres can hold

depths we release like night birds

flying unseen



48 thoughts on “Stillborn

  1. I feel this poem as heartache, again and again. Plot summary of a life, and/or a book … so much meat, and so difficult to chew – even with perseverance in so many places. Wishing Life’s blessings now on you. (And if fictional … your heroine still deserves my empathy and praise, and you, for the writing from your depths… : )

  2. Who blames a child for her abuse is a good question. I’ve been told in the past I should be grateful I was taught how to please a man at such a young age. I’ve heard the way people will blame women for dressing a certain way, or behaving a certain way, as if ‘asking for it’ despite saying the word, “No.” I wonder, how can a toddler, waddling around on chubby legs with a diaper snug around her waist, be ‘asking for it’? Logic has no basis for answering such questions.

  3. Someone actually said that to you? That’s fucking incredible. I wish I could punch that person to be honest. I agree, here in SA there are thousands of rape-kits gone un-tested because who cares about rape? It says a lot. Everything you have said here is true, it makes me hopping mad. You are so right, it defies logic. I feel it is near evil. Because everyone should know better by now. I’m so sorry someone EVER said that to you. That enrages me. You are such a lovely person.

  4. If memory serves, it was someone from India that said it. But I know many people from India and that’s not a cultural thing as far as I can tell. At first I was too shocked to be angry. But then the anger creeped in like a frog slowly boiling in water. By then, I’d long since blocked the man for his comment.

  5. So do I. Have you seen The Hunting Ground? If you have not, it’s really, really good. It seems if anything that the recognition and justice of rape and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, is worse than ever. I worked at a rape crisis center for 4 years in America and they only had one full prosecution, ONE out of every case that went through there, it staggers me, I actually do not understand why it’s allowed, permitted, acceptable to anyone. Why don’t people care? When they should so much?

  6. Good grief. My grandfather growing up in Egypt would seriously have said something like that too so I get it, sometimes it’s a cultural thing but that is no excuse these days at all and not even then is it?

  7. There’s too many variables. He said, she said. Evidence vs. reasonable doubt (she liked it rough). Sometimes it’s the connections of the accused — their families can get them out of trouble, sometimes they’re the star athletes, and no one wants to risk their bright futures. For those random acts, it could be not knowing the identity of the rapist, or with child abuse, again, with lack of evidence. I first came forward about the abuses I remembered (at the time, it wasn’t the worst of it, the sexual abuse memories didn’t return until after my son was born) in high school, to a counselor. I was informed that there was nothing I could do about it and I needed to drop it. But the abuse continued until his death a few years later. I don’t know why that woman told me to let it go, but I kept my mouth shut. I felt like there truly was nothing I could do. When I see stories about young women that are raped, humiliated, and then bullied relentlessly by their peers, I’m able to empathize with how alone they feel and how some of them end up committing suicide. They truly feel like their life is over, and the world agrees with it.

  8. I don’t see how it’s possible for an adult to feel sexually attracted to their child, especially at such a young age. And I certainly don’t see how any culture (even the ones that are still into dowry, virginity, and arranged marriages) could fathom a parent “teaching” their child how to please their partner. It goes against logic and reason.

  9. Wow that’s so like my own story. Maybe coming from the same generation that was the ‘pat response’ no matter what country you grew up in. I would ‘hope’ it’s not as bad now, in terms of someone you tell, saying ‘drop it’ but I realize in Uni’s especially the problem is epidemic level. You’re right of course, there are a lot of variables. And some women have lied about being raped, but statistically the number is so tiny it makes you wonder why so many people say ‘I bet she’s lying’ then again people say ‘depression is a choice’ so maybe the real issue is people can be really fucking CRUEL and exhibit no empathy. Either way, if you feel that the world agrees you should just fuck off and not show your pain then no wonder you feel suicidal I often wonder how many die every year indirectly and directly because of rape. It makes me so furious but I don’t know what to do. I agree w/u that writing about it helps because it reduces the stigma. I’d like to see books devoted to it, collectives of women devoted to it, men talking about it etc.

  10. Neither do I. But in his culture not only was it normalized and accepted, but it was done to him as a kid so he went on to be a paedophile. I don’t excuse him though, we have a CHOICE that is what separates us from wolves. Scratch that, wolves have more empathy!

  11. This made me cry so much, I am not afraid to say it, it doesn’t make me less of a man. I love what you and your writing do to me in a daily basis l. Thank you Candice for being YOU

  12. How tragically poignant. The strength to go in the face of so much heartache is inspiring. Your poem reads like a beautifully told story. Artfully penned my amazing friend. ❤

  13. Edit…perhaps beautiful story isn’t the correct phrase, but I am inspired by people that perservere in the face of adversity.

  14. The same happened to my father. He was practically raised to be the man he became by example. He made the choice to continue that practice. I remember one night being subjected to my grandfather when we visited then out of state when I was a kid. Out of the daily abuses I endured, I never once felt the urge to turn that around on anyone else. I never have, and I never will.💕

  15. What a heart-wrenching poem. I wish it were all fiction, but I see from the comments that she’s someone you know. I honestly don’t know how she survived all that loss, but it’s a true testament to the strength of the human spirit. Thanks you for sharing.

  16. Thank you dear one – I don’t either she became very cold but also did live a happy life afterward which astounds me I admire it greatly I understand why you do have to be cold sometimes when I think of what she went through which was FAR more than most ever do. Thank you for reading so much my friend

  17. Thank you so much Rob. I really appreciate that you liked this as you have a discerning eye and when you say something on one of my poems I sit up and listen with my third eye.

  18. It is hard because when you see someone didn’t have much of a choice you are tempted to feel sorry for them, but at the same time there are those of us who went through this and don’t go out and abuse someone else, hence the ‘choice’ part, though it’s worthwhile noting sometimes that choice is pitifully small isn’t it? I think of eileen Wurnoss especially and how I always felt she should not have been executed because she was so damaged, but how do you draw the line? And what of the damage wrought? Then again like you (kudos and admiration) I would never hurt someone as I was hurt so there IS light from the darkness. xo (hugs)(

  19. I understand. I guess there’s a point where the rational, emotional mind just shuts down and it’s easier to repeat history. Or at least not care if you do. That’s one thing to be said about people like is who’ve been through that kind of endured hell. We fought and survived while still holding onto the light. We weren’t broken when they were. Perhaps that makes us stronger, perhaps not. If only more people had the willpower to break the cycle.

  20. If it weren’t for my intent on keeping my words for free, I’d be all over that idea. But I know the whole point of such an endeavor would be to raise awareness and funding for charities that help with these causes. It raises an interesting conundrum.

Comments are closed.