The Merkin


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Written by Charles Rammelkamp. Charles Rammelkamp’s latest book is entitled “Fusen Bakudan” (“balloon bombs” in Japanese), a sequence of poems involving missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war (Time Being Books). A chapbook is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press entitled “Mixed Signals”. For more on Jewrotica by Charles, see Kitty, Reunion, and More Jewish.

Rated R

When a friend mentioned merkins
in a Facebook post, with a link
to an article with bushy mannequins on display,
I assumed the word was some urban slang
of twenty-first century coinage,
soon to go the way of
luppers (fingers), oglefakes (Cockney for eyeglasses),
the lingo of the teenybopper:
groovy, fab, far out…awesome.

But the word was first used early
in the sixteenth century,
a pedigree long as a rabbi’s beard,
a prize Persian or Turkish Angora:
a variant of malkin,
in the sense of a “mop,”
originally worn by prostitutes
after shaving their genitalia.

Elsewhere I read malkin
was a diminutive of “Maude,”
leading me to suspect
a sixteenth century whore named Maude
sported the first merkin.
What if her name had been Beatrix, Philippa?

In my sixties, I thought I knew
all the slang terms related to pudenda.
Like Eskimo words for “snow,” they’re legion,
but here was one that had escaped me.
Either my mind’s not as dirty as I thought,
or there will always be something new to discover.

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