Russian Dolls

Johanna Shapiro, PhD
(October, 2004)

As a child, not yet a woman
I loved those Russian dolls-within-dolls
The smooth, colorful, varnished surfaces
of that red-cheeked, flowering babushka
and (as I conceived it) her many daughters
some happy, some pensive
all safely tucked away inside the womb
of their mother.

But the one I liked best
was the last one of all
The littlest daughter
the tiny baby I claimed as my own

Now once again
the magical dolls open up
to reveal their secrets
The scalpel carves neatly through the
superficial flesh
plunges deeper into the abdominal cavity
then penetrates the core of womanhood itself –
Oh marvelous uterus – home to such beautiful babies! –
Still pure, still pure these dolls
greeting each opening with a
benignly smiling countenance

The knife keeps twisting
into the innocuous fibroid resting securely
within the uterine wall
finally reaching the heterogeneous mass
Of cells within

The tiniest doll of all
leers back at the astonished surgeon
with malignant eyes