Several […] legends trace the appearance of the monster
in the world to the moment of the collapse of the Tower of Babel…
—David Williams, Deformed Discourse
For weeks we lay in separate beds but
dreamed the same dreams. In our mother tongue
there is no word for it. Unworded.
What ecstasy it had been, to be so wholly
absorbed into another, sewn together like lovers,
hugging so hard we verged on merge—
But the learned surgeon towered above us, found us
tragic but fixable. When our sternums separated—
in Tears…if either should die—our hearts had never beat
so far apart. We who did not exist
beyond embrace now exist excised, exorcised,
a brace of bodies, the bridge abridged. Across
the operating theater we awoke, double amputees—
alone, unheld, our disunion terrible to behold.
We had tried to warn you,
but could face only each other,
beholde eache other with
a threatening countenaunce. The threat
was you; you, the deformity.
we lost our link to language. Come together, we had built
above Babylon’s plains a Tower, a tongue
to tongue the Word of God. Adumbrous,
our tongues unable but to babble
of what we witnessed next: Babel’s Tower
reared up its splintered minareted heads
and fell—was felled. From each throat
spilled forth monstrous forms, unspeakable,
Gainst nature’s lore some wonder forth doth spryng. Split
from Heaven, our bodies mocked that broken bridge
in stuttering conjunctions and, and, and—
We joined you, dwelt in possibility,
female and male, most perfectly shaped, save
joyn’d breast to breast, doubly monstrous—
not one, not two—terrible to beholde.
Our mother’s tongue cried out a new language
borne of horror. Our mother died
as we choked her womb’s throat. Our mother made money
exposing us in freakshows, or
left us exposed, or trusted the midwife
to drop or disappear us.
The local witch advised we be deprived
of food eight days, but we survived. Even today we
are grounds for termination, even today may be severed
without our mother’s consent. Terminate,
from terminus, region ruled
by a two-faced God who would not forgive
this division. What God has joined
let no man split asunder.
Yet the surgeon cites God’s love
in his success: to change one helpless form
into two beautiful people.
From this abrupt rupture, the hurt received
in the separation, we ceased to be wondrous.
Later, we whose toddling walk was waltz
had to step into new gravities. Unpartnered
in this unfamiliar dance we fell, fell.
Each other’s phantom limb, we haunted the halls,
casting shadow-selves who could rejoin at will.
Now I am I. You are you.
God is in His Heaven.