Paper Doll Fetus. Cynthia Marie Hoffman. Persea Books, 2014.
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The visceral, mystical poems in Paper Doll Fetus give voice to the phantom and the embryonic (homunculi, ectopic twins, fleeced lambskin) and to those who create them, biologically or otherwise. Here, the unusual reigns: a fetus is flattened to pulp by its twin in utero, a doctor cracks open a stone child, a stork delivers a baby through the chimney to its mother’s waiting hands. At once tender and dark, these tales transcend shock and reaffirm the tenuousness of our earliest stirrings into life.
Arising from the history of obstetrics, midwifery, and the many possible experiences of childbirth, these lush and harrowing poems astonished me the moment I encountered them. Here, a lamb’s-wool strap on a gurney describes the woman it restrains. Elsewhere, a phantom pregnancy speaks from within the body of a nun, or a stork, having plucked us from the marshes, spreads its wings with the sound of "umbrellas snapping open upon the wind." In Paper Doll Fetus, Cynthia Marie Hoffman creates one beautiful inhabitation after another, each a feat of dizzying perspective and musical dexterity. I have not encountered such a moving and terrifying collection of poems in years.” (Kevin Prufer)
The Flower from which Forgetfulness
Lie down beneath this tree this is the lying-in
velvety sweet this is the green sky dripping with
trumpets do you hear anything if you hear something
you will not remember it the insect that pricks your
arm flick it away you have much to do here do you
smell something lemony twilight the scent is narcotic
wipe the melody from your mind wipe the lemony
you may feel something but you will forget it don’t
bother to scream just push do what the doctor
who is not here tells you to allow the invisible
nurses have you forgotten them already to touch you
these are the plants of the gods the hell’s bells
the devil’s weed push the baby comes in the grass
someone wraps her in a towel and hands
her to you now ah the trumpets swinging the angels
struggling to keep their lips to the stems, sleepy baby.
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