by Heidi Czerwiec

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.

HEIDI CZERWIEC is the author of two poetry collections: Self-Portrait as Bettie Page(Barefoot Muse Press, 2013) and Hiking the Maze (Finishing Line Press, 2009). She lives in Grand Forks with her husband and son and is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Dakota, where spring is taking its good sweet time.