I am that woman in your book club who, when everyone’s
laughing at a certain passage, has to point out that the metaphor
also contains an intimation of death. And I’m that mother, who
when her child asks from the sticky back seat of the car
what’s a blow job? doesn’t even pause, just launches into
a few accurate details. At a party someone told a joke
about a merkin, then squinted one eye at me, You know what
a merkin is, right? Scout’s honor, I answered As opposed to Canadian?
Head on, straight shot, bourbon neat no ice. I’m serious.
One day I found myself on the threshold of a Stone Age tomb
shaped like a vagina—the guide said entrance to the womb,
but come on, I wouldn’t even let my daughter’s boyfriend
get away with skirting the V-word, which froze him in place
under the kitchen fan, forkful of spaghetti halfway to his mouth.
Anyway, as vaginas go, this one was big—63 feet long, 3 feet high,
all stone slabs in bas-relief that had held itself together
for 5,000 years. We crouched low, tucked our cameras tight
against our chests. If you get claustrophobic, go in last.
It was dry and stuffy in there, but nose to butt, we inched
the length, a line of pale elephants in sensible shoes.
One guy, thighs and belly of an aging linebacker, got stuck
Winnie-the-Pooh style, with his shoulders banging hard against
the tilted stones, until finally he popped through to breathe
quietly in the corbelled vault at the center of the mound
where the cremated ashes of our ancestors were laid
in what looked like large stone bassinets, beneath the spirals
dots and chevrons they had carved in the stone ceiling
like night sky on acid. Lights out —We stood together,
sightless as miners trapped beneath the ground, until someone
flicked a switch and a riffle of weak light entered, crept slowly
down that tunnel, like a winter solstice sunrise beam,
to edge our sneakered feet with gold. Did I say tunnel?