Tuesday, March 20, 2018

River Mary Malcolm and the Vagina Nigretto

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Welcoming the first day of spring.

In my dream, my patient,
herself a physician
asks me about
the "Vagina Nigretto."

What woman, whose lover once
entered her deeply and fully
and now turns away, and is gone,
what woman does not know
the Vagina Nigretto?

What woman, whose child
once filled and stretched her completely,
and now turns away, and is gone,
what woman does not know
the Vagina Nigretto?

When the small fist inside a woman's belly
opens to the miracle of bodily love,
it is always an incarnation.
And when that love goes, it's absence
is infinite, it leaves a hole
in her life the size of a god.

"Can you hold me in that place?"
my patient asks.

What will I tell her?

"Only the god in me can,
and the god comes and goes"?

Or will I say yes,
and repeat
the original lie
by which
we all live.


— River Mary Malcolm


Vagina Nigretto is the penultimate poem in River Mary Malcolm's 2007 volume of poetry The Mother Poems — A Daughter Wrestling with a Difficult Love. Written over the course of five decades, The Mother Poems captures the slow, complex unfolding of a daughter's relationship with her mother and a poet's relationship with her art.

The poems begin in 1964 when the poet was 16 and her mother 42. The last poem in the book was written in 2007 when the poet was 59, ten years after her mother's death at 77. Vagina Nigretto was written in 2002.