Trilogy Of Grief (28-30 June 2018) by Cristina Archetti

The set of poems (view below) I am contributing to “Childlessness & the Arts” as part of World Childless Week is about grief. It is difficult to explain the loss of a person who neither died nor lived to someone who has never experienced it. It is like falling, periodically, into a black hole opening under your feet that drains you of all your energy. Every crisis will eventually pass—in my case each of them tends to end like a summer storm, with the sun returning suddenly and forcefully and shining even brighter—but while I am in the grip of grief it is not possible to oppose resistance. I feel trapped in a vicious circle of torturing, damaging thoughts about guilt, self-blame, bleak future scenarios (if a future can be seen at all, in the middle of all that fog), “what ifs.”

Grief is also deceptive: it disappears, perhaps for months, making me think I am safe. Then, out of the blue, out of a thrown-away remark by a stranger on a bus or an image I saw on Facebook, I just have the time to see it towering over the horizon, like a tsunami wave, before it crashes on me.

The poems were written earlier this summer. I had been working for months non-stop on a book about the silence surrounding infertility. I was so satisfied with the progress of the writing, the weather was warm and truly summery. I was looking forward to some days off. For the first time in years I realized I wanted to read books, not because I had to do it for work, but because I wanted to, out of this strange tingling feeling I had forgotten about called “interest.” I was having a great time. Then grief came.

The poems are not explicitly about not having a child, but this is precisely the point and the nature of what we are dealing with: the sense of restlessness, anxiety and pain that seem to come from nowhere and that without warning, even when you think you have got over “it,” cast a shadow on all that surrounds you.

Now, don’t think that grief must necessarily come and spoil any party you are having. It does not. And it does get better over time. I have become grief’s friend. I am learning to live with it, by surrendering straight away, for instance, and accepting it, like one would do with a force of nature one cannot negotiate with, as part of my journey. In fact, it is a process of tempering through which I am forging a stronger “me”: I can see how, every time it visits me (it is happening less and less frequently, by the way), I am bouncing back stronger.

I am also more careful in working with childlessness as a topic of research. Although writing the book is rewarding, I know I am walking on the edge of the cliff. Some days the path is larger and more comfortable to walk in, but the subject needs to be handled in small doses. I realize now that the grief crisis of the summer was made worse by the emotional poisoning of having worked so intensely on the manuscript. I probably should not have read at that point the wonderful, yet so drenched in passion and pain, Diary of Frida Kahlo.

But we live and learn and, most importantly, we live further to share our stories.

Imagine the poems being arranged in a circle around you. They can be read clockwise or anti-clockwise, in any order



Motionless leaves

on a line of black poplars


holding their breath


on fields

gasping for air.

Cats stop midstep

at the buzz of mosquitos

(the glimpse of a fox?)

or the Doppler effect

of a car that roars by.

In a room without walls

I turn

in between sheets in between

being awake and sleep.

In the air slightly sticky

and thick

and too bright

for this time of the night

curtains are no shield

against the heat

and the starless sky.




When the pale light comes

and consciousness flickers

on ripples of a blanket

kicked to the floor


are urban foxes

you only catch


in the trash.




Silent foxes

stand staring

from the disordered vegetation

beyond the fence

at the back of the garden

where we discussed

there should be a door

to make a shortcut

to the shops

one of those projects

you talk about

in all seriousness


it will never happen

while windows wide open

invite winged visitors

that sting

leaving no visible bites

and travelling noises


I lie

my hair ruffled

my body worn

inside out.