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Published in: JOURNAL, poetry, pregnancy

The Cædmon Poems

By Tara Stadnyk

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From the Author:

Thank you for reading my poetry collection, The Cædmon Poems, which speak to one of the most taboo subjects out there - pregnancy loss.

After losing my son, Cædmon, in an early delivery almost 5 months into the pregnancy, I learned that many people simply do not have the language for communicating or hearing these stories, so I turned to poetry to heal myself and share with others.

I dedicate this collection to Dallas, my loving partner and forever father to our son.


1. Whale Song
2. Centuries of Mothers
3. Milk Cow
4. Underground
5. Tara, With No Baby
6. Fortress of Tears
7. Leave
8. How Does Pain Sound?
9. Living Memory
10. Saint Cædmon
11. The Darkest Night

 

Abstract blue & orange watercolor, "Riverhead" by Helen Frankenthaler 

Whale Song

Cadences of Cædmon
Resounding over water
This bridge between
Belly and bathtub
Wet womb throbs
Contract, contract, contract
Cries from cavernous waters
Impossible pain
And yet, my only reality
The pain women
Always told you about

My child will die today
I am birthing death
So I call to him
From across the centuries
In whale song

My cave breath echoes
Over waters of women
Milk blood mothers
Who arrive together
In wet, primitive earth
Who birth pure spirit
From darkness
From within her vessel
Through birth canal
To open sea

This whale song will be
His funeral song
His perfect body in mine
I hold him there
One last time
Sing him to sleep
The last lullaby


Centuries of Mothers

a woman shrouded
by wisdom, life’s
true suffering

faith loses meaning
when babies die
mothers go mad

bodies do not know
why they cannot
feed, cradle, love

one path ends in the
womb wilderness
we are marooned

we cry tears until
nothing is left
raw vacancy

we fashion sheer shrouds
we float away
we estrange with

our new family

centuries of mothers
whose babies died
in their arms


Milk Cow

Like an animal
A servant to Nature
My breasts fill and swell
Even after you are gone
There is nothing I can do
But bind them with farm cabbage
Hope the milk does not come
Please milk, do not come

I can’t look in the mirror anymore
My body, unrecognizable
A state of shock:
My breasts tripled in size
My belly empty without you
A physical response
Governed by Nature
Primordial cruelty

I am a helpless animal
I am a milk cow
Searching for her babe
Sad, swollen, in pain


Underground

the fatigue sets in
tired of being at work
tired of being someone
tired of lifting my eyes

responding,

i want to crawl underground
to darkness, dead silence
my bones cradled
by the earth
becoming nothing


Tara, With No Baby

I sit here
answering questions
forcing smiles
my pain is masked, buried
but just beneath the surface

they do not ask me
about my son, Cædmon

I live in another world
far from theirs
dirty and desolate
blood-stained
blood-soaked

I try to participate
in the world I once knew
the world with the
younger, happier Tara
the one who hoped

but nobody sees me
nobody sees my pain
nobody knows me
knows what’s inside
they only see

Tara
with no baby


Fortress of Tears

I am guarding myself
This fortress of tears
No one may enter my
Foggy bygone harbour

Battered and scattered by trauma
I reside inside my castle
Waves of grief crash against rock
Reality, hard as stone

I try to love myself again
Love my empty belly
Flabby from birth
Breasts that swelled and milked
For my infant ghost
Now reduce

I reduce
I shrink
I slip away

Listen, sounds of bells
And a mother’s moan
Reality, hard as stone


Leave

I have been spending a lot of time
In bed, medical leave
Leave me alone, I’m healing

Buried and bundled
Blanket upon blanket
I am safe here
It is warm and full of dreams
CBD & THC join me
Lull me to sleep

The world outside spins
Madness in the streets
But I am warm and safe here
Underneath the sheets


How Does Pain Sound?

why struggle for words
when screams are inside
cries, sobs, moans, wails
sound matching sorrow

our wordless voices
fill that terrible vacancy
voices of the body
not of the mind

how does pain sound?
like the wind
like a storm
obliterating reality
crashing, crushing
sadness
followed by moments
of calm

then another storm builds
on the horizon
swallowing us
redefining us
landscapes changed
forever

and so,
we rebuild


Living Memory

In these last months
I have aged years
Become someone else
My shadow grows, thickens
Casting darkness
A hollowed gloom

The person I once created
Identity, Self, the “I”
Gone

She died when her babe died
And all that remains
Is living memory
Of death


Saint Cædmon

Our saint, our son,
Our time traveller; threads
Of past, present, future
Divine starry tapestry
Woven by destiny

Receiver and messenger
Of dreams; conduit
Of spirit, father, son
Whispering verses never heard
“Cædmon’s Hymn”, holy word

Whitby, England. February 11th
A merry medieval feast
Where wine flows like red rivers
Voices join in songs of Saint Cædmon
All around, music and celebration

February 11th
The day we expected you
To join our little family
A memory carved into stone
Saint Mary’s garden, home

In shadows
We light candles for you
Your father and I
We carry your hymn with us
Now and always

The drumming of your heart
Echoes in my belly
Long after you are gone
We are made of you
And you, of us

Let us sing together
In Cædmon’s dream
With love in our hearts
Birthing words and music
That live on in you


The Darkest Night

Be your own light
To, within, and through
The darkest night

Know your own pain
Intimately, then
Feel it again

For the tears now
Will purify you
A sacred vow

Becoming more
Of you, the real you
More than before

 

artwork: alma thomas (cover); helen frankenthaler 

Tara Stadnyk is a musician, writer, and performing artist grown in the Saskatchewan prairies, now residing on Snuneymuxw territory. Tara sings in medieval languages with Vancouver Island duo, Cædmon’s Dream. She holds a BA Honours in English (2017) and a MA in English (2018) from the University of Saskatchewan where she specialized in women’s erotic art and literature, feminism, and sexuality. She is currently working towards publishing a book of poetry.

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