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New Poetry

Vagina Monologues in Uzbekistan

by Kristen Hoggatt


“Layer upon layer” it unfolded
as extremists planned our executions.
By Invitation Only, we prevented a riot,
local boys hooting at our liberated cunts.
Most women who came were old and hard,
flicking their wrists with stoic charm:
“I unpacked my son’s bags from Afghan war.
I’ve seen vaginas, pubes trimmed and dyed
a hot yellow.”
The girl who barely met
the age limit cried. Was it cruel?
Her ocular membranes gleaned the same
labial red hours after the free Diet Cokes.
V day in the Valley, what did it change?
The girl wipes the xontaxta of spilled green tea.


I never understood my Monologue
until I heard the woman through the walls
of my apartment in Jizzakh:

O Xudo, O God, what is that thing?
Dabbing the vulva with vodka, her son
being boiled within the prison’s walls.

“If that woman’s vagina could speak, what
would it say?” His penis is not clean
—bring me a new one.

I can’t stand the blade’s glide across my skin,
drops of blood a classic Uzbek design,
red petals in full bloom.


Fruit was inexpensive in May,
the heat of landlocked breeze

beginning to wet the crotch
mid-day, an invitation to explore:

the nubile pulp’s numb, cum
clear and perfect. Outside

the bald youth, shaved to the scalp
to drive off head lice, screamed,

heralding someone’s arrival.


He was twenty years older than I and had gapped
front teeth. He had traveled around the hemisphere
in a submarine—he also brought booze. My vagina opened
to his skilled penis the way the cotton plant opens to autumn
child labor.
                                  You could make him love you.
O, I loved him as a student loves the professor who wears
fashionable jackets. I drank too much. He slipped out
of the hovel with a kiss, but left the condom in the canal.
For days, my vagina discharged a sad film: a love story.


When the soldiers sacked

my village, they sacked

my vagina:

three uniformed penises

at a time forced through

the center of me,

along with gun barrels

and knives.

Pain? What is pain?

Ganged by pock-mark shafts

my vagina screamed.


He gave me my first orgasm,
dry humping through jeans

behind the bazaar. I was sixteen.
My vagina’s happy throb

made me smile all day at school. Later,
he held my hand in front of everybody.


The Uzbek word for vagina was um.
When we stammered “Um, bilmayman,”
or “Um, I’m not from New York,” or
“Um, um, um…” we stammered
about our vagina, the “m” pressed
our lips like the bilateral line
of apricots—how sweet the sound
of flesh split open by our vowels.

Common Memory of Camel

                 For Peace Corps’ Uzbek-16, evacuated June, 2005

We learned Uzbek
in a matter of months.

Years later we couldn’t forget:
a speeding taxi,

Camel on the steppe, our eyes stare
through the window

at the boy asleep between its humps, his dark hair
over Camel’s light brown

where the hump casts its cool relief, the arid
of what comes next. In Khiva, the caparison’s red bleeds

over dust brown brick—the accused skull that dropped 200 feet
from the minaret in the ancient center.

A street artist renders that scene: two young girls
sweeping up the bones

with a broom two feet long. Does a hump spring up
in muscle’s tight memory

of the overworked? Those gnawed
fibers through the needle’s eye

so the rich can get
to heaven?

Camel was C
in grade school,

the burlap rope looped
around its neck.

It became that figure with the missing
ear in the Nativity set, a punch line

and too-tight jeans, a designer coat, the shade
of semi-gloss paint on the bathroom mirror’s edge,

the beast of Kipling’s tale bent
in the D.C. zoo, gripped in the afternoon (the keeper gripped

his pipe and puffed; the children came to watch his tricks).
And when at last the impact

broke our ribs, Camel carried that weight, through dry synapses
and impaling glass.

Camel licked our wounds until formed the dense scabs.
Marched under the deadpan sun,

our Camel did, with the warm hard bones
of resolve (we took refuge between its humps).

Camel took us out,
and it’s waiting

for the moment we’re ready
to go back.


“Fi Sahitik,” my husband says before we drink:
to your health, words nursing wounds, anodyne
on our fragile tongues, though Arabs never say it

with beer, always with a cup of tea so hot it burns
away foul thoughts. The Viking in my stout blood
rears; I shout Skål, as in the bone over the brain.

Skål of my latest victim. “Skål!” as loudly
as the others on deck, lifting high a head full
of mead, the enemy gripped in one hand,

knocking skull cups jaw to jaw in celebration.
I wonder if my husband knows that I am slightly
cannibalistic, that my words emerge scathed

through my teeth, that as we sit here in this bar
I’m fully able to grab my ax and chop off his arm—
I kiss his cheek. The bouncer studies him, not me.

Five foot nothing, a hundred and nothing, white,
I bring my pint to my lips as I watch the men
whisper by the front door. I see a bull’s eye

on the bouncer’s back. My final savage swig.

Parenting Advice

Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Cut your fingernails when you cut baby’s.
Eat when the baby eats.
Lick the saltless puree off his chin and
Glide your tongue across the floor.
Dip your fingers into the toilet bowl.
Rub Oragel on the bone erupting from your pink flesh.
Fart when the baby farts.
Throw books off shelves.
Kick essays on craft but
Masticate novels (especially Russian with those tasty patronymics).
Tongue sweet potatoes but never
Eat them whole.
Tongue the bottle but only
Suckle from the breast.
Tongue the remote control until it
Radiates beams through your warm marrow. When the baby
Babbles, “googilee goo,” so you will
Babble, “googilee goo.” When the baby
Soils himself, so will you. When the baby’s nightmares
Become your own, when the baby’s shots are due, so you will
Brace yourself for what comes next.

Kristen Hoggatt received her MFA from Emerson College after working abroad for three years in Egypt and Uzbekistan (where she facilitated a poetry workshop among other things). After graduating, Kristen moved back to Arizona and is currently a Writing 101 instructor at Pima Community College where she tries to bring poetry into the classroom as much as possible. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming by The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Nimrod International Journal, The Ledge Magazine, scissors and spackle, Miller’s Pond, Arsenic Lobster, The Healing Muse, and The Smart Set, where she was also the “Ask a Poet” advice columnist from 2008-2011.

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