Miscarriage: such an odd and innocuous word for such a potentially traumatic experience. As a single man in a male-dominated society, I’ve had the luxury of ignoring the reality of that experience for most of my life, aided by the fact that, for whatever reason, we don’t seem to have a way of really talking about it. Neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice” rhetoric seems adequate for addressing the pain and loss that accompany a spontaneous, unwanted abortion. And what might it mean for a religious woman in particular? Job’s dilemma might come to seem all too familiar, I’m thinking.

I don’t know; obviously I’m way out of my depth here. But I had my eyes opened a little bit when my friend Rachel Barenblat — the Velveteen Rabbi — asked me to read the manuscript of a small collection of poems she’d put together, Through, which arose from her own experience with miscarriage in January. A month or so later I received a beautiful, handmade chapbook (y’all know how much I love chapbooks), and I asked Rachel how other people could get a copy, because it seemed important to start filling the language void about this virtually taboo subject. Here’s her answer. Rachel has generously made it available in three forms: as a free download, an at-cost print-on-demand bound copy, or a free audio edition. Please help spread the word.

This can’t have been an easy experience to write anything about at all, let alone to distill into ten brief, searing, and luminous poems. As with Rachel’s earlier chaplainbook, these are accessible poems with several different layers of meaning, so I think almost anyone who’s ever gone through a miscarriage will get something out of it. Which is not to say the audience should end there: miscarriage is a subject every bit as relevant and revealing of the human condition as warfare, for example. So why doesn’t it get more attention from writers and artists? As Rachel says in “Wordless Melody,”

There is no song
which asks why a soul

dips a toe in these waters
and then turns back

leaving a woman
bereft, bleeding.

But there is now. Go listen.

16 Replies to “Through”

  1. Thanks for this gracious & generous review, Dave.

    The experience sucked, but there’s something redemptive for me in sharing the poems which arose out of it.

    I really appreciate your making the point that miscarriage is as fundamental a human experience as warfare. I’m surprised by how much that idea surprised me, especially given that I agree with it already.

    1. Yes, we’re so used to thinking about art or writing about war as transcendentally significant, aren’t we? When really it has relatively little to teach us about the trials and tribulations of ordinary existence. It’s not hard to make the case that miscarriage is actually a much more illuminating window.

  2. Dave, thanks for the heads-up, it was wonderful to hear Rachel reading the poems (though I have no idea how she got through it… it wasn’t last summer, it was only January).

  3. rachel and dave — i don’t have the strength to read the collection at the moment, but the excerpt itself is stunning.

    rachel, i will read at some point and i already know i’m grateful that you were able to write it. there are few topics that i readily allow to run far ahead of me when i write, that i consciously allow distance — this is one of them.

    one of a writer’s tasks is to be brave, and it’s clear you have been. :)

  4. It is a very tough subject, but one close to the hearts of many women, and the men who watch them grieve. This poem you have here is so beautiful!

    I’ve had two miscarriages, but I also have two sons. Still, it’s a heartbreak to think of those times, even now. I’ll definitely read the chap. Thanks so much for sharing. Plus a handmade chapbook, how wonderful.

    1. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

      I should perhaps have given credit to “Pica” (see above comment) for making the edition I have a copy of: the 11th of an edition of ten, apparently.

  5. I’ve just visited here via Dale. An exceptional book that does touch everybody. Like Christine, I’ve had a miscarriage but am lucky enough to have two boys…….but it is still an awful pain.

    1. I’m glad you liked the collection and found it relevant to your own experience. I couldn’t find a way of saying that Rachel’s religiosity isn’t an overwhelming presence in the book, and shouldn’t prevent women from all backgrounds from connecting with it.

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