The Courtyard and To The Unfertilized Eggs in My Ovaries

Two Poems by Michelle Bonczek

The Courtyard

She appears from behind
a white pillar, a lamplighter
and I swear

small flames lift from her candles
like fireflies toward stars.
What she wears is not important.

She crosses the grass in the rain.
For hours I’ve watched puddles gush from the awning
of a monastery brewery. The bells won’t stop ringing.

My blood lightens with pilsner
and the fried cheese and onions remind me
of my husband’s breath, his nightmares, those spiders,

his screaming
for his mother from the center of our bed.
When I try to hold him and tell him

everything is okay, he flails, his body only
half-awake and therefore forgive-able but still
I taste iron on my lips.

Once, we crossed a threshold:
he said I hate you and I knew I would never
let him take it back. Back then,

I’d rip my bitten nails down the runway of my neck
to feel anything but what we were doing to each other.
Scars and tissues,

smashed glass, stained walls,
the crescent moon dent in the bedroom door.
Those small white scars

on his hands like ghosts
from the year he washed dishes at the Bistro.
The stink of wet clothes in front of the basement fan.

If he were here right now
we’d be feeding each other olives, pretending to be in love.
We’d be talking Kafka in Czech, I’m certain, I might

lay my head on his shoulder, in that cove the size of a fist
he said I fit perfectly, I’d be ignoring the discomfort
that came with laughter and talk of kids, anything to do

with the body felt unnatural with him,
sharpened my heart into granite. Kids,
the ones we will never have,

the ones I could never imagine into being,
not in all those years our hands held each other’s.
How I wish they could see the tree in this courtyard,

our little girls with their big brown eyes
and the rain sticking to the grass
like fire.

To the Unfertilized Eggs in my Ovaries

I am running in circles around this track that is a perfect oval, an imperfect circle like the cells on the tip of my cervix making waves, rocking my inner world with mutiny. Little eggs, this will be the second time I let doctors pry me open and go exploring with their metal spears and cotton swabs, their big eyes in search of the possible something causing havoc in an empty womb that might one day be your home. They keep it tidy in case you ever arrive. Last time this is what was found: an extended colon, an un-explainable infection in the intestine—they lasered it back into the void. No human life here. No endometriosis either. Only a surplus of slippery walls and then, scar tissue. And now, pre-cancerous cells, little houses for cancer. Look what grows in the absence of you. When I spread my legs and line my heels up with the rims of their silver stirrups I feel like I am delivering a joke. When they do what they do in there they do it for you, my dear future fertility. What does this to do with me? A woman who does not want children visits doctors who treat her body like a will. I leave you strange world, a baby kangaroo. A monkey. A pocket watch. A woman who does want children, no matter what the health of her ovaries, uterus, cervix, might never get pregnant. There are no guarantees and I’m tired of housekeeping, of making beds for no one. Life is, after all, my love loves to say, 99 percent a mystery. Little eggs, you probably know more. Little eggs, there are hundreds of thousands of you, your own colony of bumbling vessels, humming promises. One hundred years ago, you’d all be done for, proverbial sand in wind and I’d be too old to nest you. Yet today, I am told a woman who has never been pregnant faces greater risks of disease—a sentence for not becoming a mother. A body held hostage. I can’t get myself pregnant. I can barely write poems anymore. This afternoon, to relax, I made cherry shortbread cookies, cut the cold butter into the flour and sugar with two knives and a fork. Chopped the maraschinos after pulling their stems, mixed their red flesh into the breadcrumb-like mixture, added three drops of red food coloring, white chocolate chips. Pressed the dough, which looked like what I’ve seen pass out from between my legs, smooth, into a ball the size of a head, my hands aching. I cut the ball evenly into 60 pieces and rolled each onto a baking sheet, and using the bottom of a water glass, being careful not to break it, I flattened each ball into an individual pink moon, 60 perfect circles rising in my oven.

Michelle Bonczek’s poetry has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Crazyhorse, Cream City Review, Green Mountains Review, Margie, Orion, and The Progressive. In 2009 she was the recipient of the Jane Kenyon Award in poetry through Water~Stone Review. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Lebanon Valley College where she teaches poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and American Literature.

Read poetry editor Tania Pryputniewicz’s interview with Michelle here.

1 Response to “The Courtyard and To The Unfertilized Eggs in My Ovaries”


  • Very wonderful creative poetry. If you are wanting a child, Julia Indichova and her website are very supportive. Her work relates to dealing with the things in our lives that may be inhibiting pregnancy and at the same time being supportive with imagery and other aspects that can strengthen and increase chances of pregnancy. This is very personal – treating each woman as a unique creation with the power of knowing the best choice if that power of knowing is tapped into and listened to.

    Blessings to you.

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