I Never Saw a Goddess Go

“In the village of Behar, India, a girl born with four arms and four legs is thought to be the reincarnation of the Hindu Goddess.”
London Daily Mail
From the ocean of my womb
the Goddess Lakshmi herself unfurled
her multiplicity of limbs
from my lotus body.

A girl

is rarely cause to celebrate,
but the village worshipped her, showered
us upon our straw-tick pallet
with jasmine, saffron, every flower
from the fields.

But embodiments

of gods are fraught.  She hauled
herself about, impediment
of extra arms and legs that wheeled
no fortune.  Infected, she fevered
to contain the sacred.  Medics
expected death, advised we sever
the superlatives.  But in which did Vedic
divinity reside? The scans
were silent, showed no glowing aura.
I deferred to learned men’s
certainty, the weight it wore.
So, at age two, the deity
divided, requiring multiple teams
to execute the surgery
—so many arms! so many arms
wheeling!—and after, on the bed,
my daughter, and an amputated form
laid out, beatitude fled—
A swift recovery. No sign
of sepsis.   One month in hospital,
then home.   No vengeance, none divine,
though drought makes our neighbors hurl
curses, blame us for luck gone,
dried up.

               Make your own fortune, girl.


Heidi Czerwiec is a poet, essayist, translator, and critic who teaches at the University of North Dakota, where she is poetry editor of North Dakota Quarterly. She is the author of two recent chapbooks — A Is For A-ké, The Chinese Monster and Sweet/Crude: A Bakken Boom Cycle — and the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets.