Monday Mar 27

CzerwiczHeidi Heidi Czerwiec is associate professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of North Dakota, where she is Director of the annual UND Writers Conference. She is the author of Hiking the Maze (Finishing Line Press, 2009), the recipient of a 2009 Bush Foundation/Dakota Creative Connections artist grant, and was the 2010 Howard Nemerov Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference. She has poems and translations published or forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, New South, Measure, and International Poetry Review.

Fugue: Maternal Imagination

After Ambrose Paré              

"There are several things that cause monsters." On Monsters & Marvels (1585)

Paré detailed legs fused fast as fish, spines
that bloom like split fruit, heads cleft or swelled
(Wyatt-to-be, awash inside his sea
of sound, sleeps on): "Profound grief or shock
that act upon the mother produce defect."
In Ultrasound, the screen may or may not
a sequence of small tragedies unspool.
The tech measures, double-checks. It is a Mercie
(of God? of Nature?) when Births are not mis-formed.

A sequence of small genetic tragedies
compounds, creates divine design, or error.
I've studied specimens. I know it's Mercie
when Births are not mis-formed, defects produced
(downloaded, they float across my screen) by grief.
Paré blamed a mother's fancy. Mine?
The birthmother's? What would her rape imprint
(Wyatt-to-be, awash inside his sea)?
God hath a speciall Hande in the wombe.

It was a shared mercy when Wyatt-to-be's mom
chose me, and when I chose to mother her son.
All adoptions are a sequence of small tragedies.
"Profound grief or shock that act upon
the mother produce defect." But which one?
Would it be fancy to beg the tech for lead
to shield him from the horrors in my head?
For months, I've studied fearful symmetries,
small tragedies that float – in wombs,
in jars, across a variety of screens.
Wyatt-to-be is pronounced perfect, divine
design or error. It is a Mercie
when Births are not mis-formed, I sigh to the screen.
Despite our tragedies, imagined and real,
Wyatt-to-be awash inside a sea of sound
exposes a perfect penis, then swims away
and waves, or seems to, as if to say
God hath a speciall Hande (what will He shape?).
And so hath Wyatt, waving at us all.


I've chosen from my French ticklers
to write in you, the triolet.
Rondeaus and villanelles are fickler
so I've chosen from my French ticklers
a form that gets the job done quickler,
yet scratches your itches à Françáise.
I've chosen from my French ticklers
to write for you this triolet.

Valley of the Dolls
from Self Portrait as Bettie Page
You may have played the camera was a man
but you knew your body best: the perfect pose
to accentuate your no-lines tan,
the home-sewn costumes bedecked with frills and bows—
you always knew for what the occasion called,
and you called it like you saw it. Doll
of your own crafting.
                                             Doll of ours:
we women, discontent with being the Muse
made most of the images of you produced.
And here I am, a woman reproducing
you, not entirely certain who empowers
who within this Republic of ours
where we wed ourselves, and craft our own trousseaus.