Eastern OrthodoxLife and FaithPoetry

St Xenia’s Day

For the past few years, I’ve marked St Xenia’s Day by writing about a topic that has become dear to my heart: miscarriage. Although my family has been through the pain of miscarriage several times, the first stillbirth I was close to in physical proximity was named Xenia, the daughter of close friends. Of our named lost infants, the first, Kaylee Dawn, was born before we knew anything about saints and their celebrations; and the last one stillborn, Canice Aine Marie, was named for the Virgin Mary, whom we remember every day. I have written for my own losses, but those poems are more personal and a narrower approach to the topic than is suitable for this venue.

The poem above was written for Xenia’s burial. “Emily Said Hope” discusses the relation between the emotional and physical responses to miscarriage. “The Saints that were Never Born” describes that hope we have for these children in Christ. “First Birthday” talks about how nothing – including more successful births – replaces the ones we’ve lost. “One Year Memorial” is again a description of the feeling of loss that persists even over time. “For St Xenia’s Day 2017” is this year’s exploration of all of these topics, brought into the realm of the communion of the saints.

If you have been through this pain yourself, I hope these poems are an encouragement to you on some level. If you have not, I hope this post helps you to understand and sympathise with your loved ones who have.

Emily said Hope

Emily said Hope is the thing with feathers
but I think Hope is the thing with claws and fur and teeth
comfortable to pet when things are going with the grain
and comforting to listen to the healing purr
only extending its claws when moving forward faster
or to remind us that pain is only occasional
and Hope springs eternal, crouching and pouncing.

But when things are rubbed the wrong way
Hope digs in its claws and bares its teeth
hackles rising, back arching, hissing, hissing
tearing bleeding lines, tearing dripping eyes
making hairballs in your throat and lungs
until you can only sob and cough and hurt
and try to pet the thing back calm and soft.

Emily said Hope is the thing with feathers
and it sings through everything without words
but Hope makes its own words inside you
which you can’t get out because of the hairball
scratching them out on your heart where they’ll scar
and Hope will spring eternal, then curl up in your lap
and comfortably claw your gently heaving belly.

The Saints that were Never Born

In Heaven with the Father, praying for us down here
Those we’ve never known alive but who still linger near
We know some day we’ll see them in answer to their prayers
Because they’ve learned to love us from their Father who always cares

And we love them back and wait to see them on that morn
When we meet in Heaven the Saints that were never born

So many were not wanted and as martyrs they died
Some were not allowed to come although they tried and tried
For them the safest space on earth became a place of strife
And so God took them in his arms and gave them His eternal life

And we love them back and wait to see them on that morn
When we meet in Heaven the Saints that were never born

These Saints become our cross to bear as we travel on
As we suffer for them and always feel they’re gone
And they too our blessed hope born in Christ like we
Until we’re born into the life that we’ll share for eternity

And we love them back and wait to see them on that morn
When we meet in Heaven the Saints that were never born

First Birthday

You were never really here
But you’ve never really left
But still I’ve missed you just the same
You had never said a word
Many words were said for you
The only one left is your name

You are always on my mind
Even when it’s not on you
Saw you under the apple tree
I wish I was missing you
I wish I did not have to
I’d rather have you here with me

You left me with empty arms
But they are full again now
He wouldn’t have been in this space
I would never give him up
Like I will not give you up
No one can take a lost love’s place

One Year Memorial

There’s nothing emptier
Than a hole
Full of dirt
Full of box
Full of body
Full of no one
Except your heart

St Xenia’s Day 2017

I have commended my child to the care of a childless fool who married a dead God after her dead husband
She always took care of the poor when she was alive and so I assume she still takes care of them
And none is so poor as a child who never got around to be living and held
Except a mother who never got to hold her never living child before death

I would rather be held by a saint than by an angel and carried by her in arms of prayer
Wings are for those with nobody buried beneath the earth keeping them there
But she spent her nights beside a tomb and her days amongst the dying
And so she is always right there with me where we can both care for our dead

St Xenia, as you hide yourself in the poor who are hiding in God who is hiding in me
Care for my lost one and her lost mother and lose us in the God who lost his child
And found him alive again in the arms of his mother wider than the heavens
Where we will all be hid among the empty tombs and held by the prayers of the saints

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

A Northerner by upbringing, Kenneth has lived in the South since his (first) college days. After returning to college, he began to do more than just dabble with writing, and has self-published a children's picture book, a middle-reader's book, and several collections of poetry. Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, raised in the fundamentalist Baptist church, and having spent time in the Reformed Baptist church, Kenneth settled down in the Eastern Orthodox church in 2006.

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