portion of the artwork for JR Walsh's poetry

JR Walsh’s Comments

It’s OK. You don’t have to invite us to your party. We probably can’t make it anyway. We’re very busy reviewing our trigger warnings. After all, we’ve had a miscarriage. Your kids and your neighbor kids are a thousand screaming reminders of our grief. Actually, it’s been two miscarriages.

And if you didn’t know, now’s a good time to say: Oh, I’m so sorry—I didn’t know. It’s a less good time to launch into the five Ws of journalism. And if you did start with When, please don’t express audible relief that it’s been a few years since dot dot dot. We’d prefer not to hear your mental calculations. So, too: rearview, medical miracles, whiskey to forget, adoption, Janet Jackson, or So, how old are you guys anyway? Stop. Stop. Your children are the exact the same age that ours are not. Will never be.

People want hope. Maybe people want to give us hope, but in very defined terms. Often, it’s hope for the ability to create children. People also want results.

There are reasons why we don’t tell everybody. After all, who you tell is your business. We admire Chrissy Teigen’s honesty and vulnerability in her own expression of loss; we rage at the trolls who object to her way of dealing with it. I’d like to throw a glass baby bottle full of gasoline at these self-righteous judges of this woman’s grief. I won’t, but I’ll joke about it. I might not have made that joke before dot dot dot.

I slipped into using first person here, since I cannot begin to speak for both of us. And yet here I am, writing about it with my partner’s encouragement. We’re shouldering into: We’re artists. We’re writers. We’re opening veins. How does a writer deal with processing their partner’s pain when they know the physical and emotional toll? What right do I have to this? This loss didn’t happen inside my body.

After years of writing since, one might read most of my poems through a family miscarriage lens. It’s not always intentional, but sometimes it is. It’s our story, but it’s other people’s stories too. Sometimes it’s a blend of fantasy and the absurd when wordplay takes over. Sometimes it’s humorous. Or devastating. Or both at the same time. I’ve never been able to write the poem: “The most fun you’ll have after a miscarriage this holiday season.” Maybe the title is enough for now.

There are other poems I’m unable to write, and usually they’re the ones acknowledging my partner’s pain. Her loss. The emotional weight. The continuously present absences that seem to fill our lives, particularly when and where we don’t anticipate it. Actually, it’s all of those five Ws.

There’ve been times when it seems like every episode or movie warrants the feeling of apology. Shit, this one’s about babies. Why is this ultrasound scene so long? My partner takes some comfort meeting the topic head on in books, digging deep into the real stories of pain and crying through them. I avoid. I’m reading Proust for cattiness and safety, and Shirley Jackson is up next. That said, I’m wary of her family memoirs.

Maybe knowing that my partner is strong enough to read about miscarriage and family makes me able to write about it. I know that I’ve also devised a thousand ways to pivot out of The Conversation. Other pivoters may understand and have their own methods. But, here we are, childless and dealing with it the best way we know how from day to day. If you do bring up Janet Jackson at a party, I’ll give you that Rhythm Nation is awesome, perfect, maybe even a work of genius, and her kid might be too. But until they make a pop song as catchy as “Escapade,” I don’t want to hear about some miracle child. Time for that whiskey?

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 56 | Fall/Winter 2020