Breasts

 

Figure A.   Woman, nude from the waist up, standing in front
of mirror. Arms raised above head; breasts
inspected for dimpling, thickening.

Tin tub, hot water hauled
Steaming from the stove, steaming
The mirror. Lye soap.

Flare of hips, bare back,
Her hair slipping its awkward
Snood, rippling past her

Shoulders. Left arm crooked
Over head, that beautiful
Tilt, that supplication.

Sponging off the sweat
From packing pecans all day,
Culling the kernels

At Roper Candies,
Sponging under arms — downy
Hair iridescent

With suds, sponging
Under breasts. Looking down.
19. Nipple. Nipple.

Figure B.   Woman face up, flat in bed, small pillow under left
shoulder. Position prevents sagging, results in
satisfactory inspection.

Reading in bed, learning
The body the way the blind
Learn Braille, fingers against

Skin, scanning. Circling,
Circling from the shoulder inward
Inward. Fingers slick

With Jergens gliding
Over the breast — water skate
Skimming the thin skin

Of the pond — spiraling
Inward like a nautilus,
Stippled, thicker here.

39. Hackle. Hackle.

Figure C.   Recent radical mastectomy showing markings for
radiation. Incisions placed so that they will not show
when wearing evening dress or bathing suit.

Suturing, suturing,
Interrupted silk. The scar
Crosshatched, diagonal

From shoulder to her
Xiphisternum. Zipper, zipper.
Something’s wrong with this

White leather, this
Epidermis sliced and scraped
And stitched — no nipple,

No tissue, no muscle,
No lilt — skin stretched like canvas
Over washboard ribs.

She can see straight down to
Her pubis. It hurts to zip
Her dress, brush her hair.

She used to be quite
The seamstress, hands darting here and
There. No pattern now.

49. Radical, radical.

Figure D.   Table showing statistical survey of definite
tendency toward the development of breast cancer
among family members.

Spring’s sprung, I’m ten, I
Don’t ever want to get tits
I’ve seen my grandmother

Changing clothes, changing.
She didn’t know I was watching
Her, watching. I’d gone

Outside, climbed up in
The pear tree, its dark branches
Weighed down with a pearly

Spray of bloom. I’d shaken
Its limbs, bruised its thick clouds
Of blossom, littered

The ground with petals.
Pollen fell all over me,
A layer of gold, gilding

Gilding. Something’s changed.
I can smell the sweet rot of
Bloom, can hear the bees

Buzz as they suckle, see
For the first time how each petal
Isn’t pure white but

Curled at each edge, pale brown.
Some day I’ll need a bra, some
Day I’ll sag like Gran.

Not me. Not now.

Figure E.   Pathologist inspecting each slide of fine needle
aspiration carefully for basal cell changes. His role
is vital in the preservation of the woman’s breast.

My boyfriend at work:
White walls, white rats, white lab coat,
White hands adjusting

The lens. He works as
A pathologist, sifting
Through slides for changes

In cells, staining them
Violet, murmuring words like
Metastasis, like

Carcinoma. Low
In the throat, almost purring.
This is what it looks

Like; this is a textbook
Case of CA, he says. And,
Sometimes when I can’t

Find anything, I
Stay here half the night. I like
To find it, like to

Find it. He’s been my boyfriend
For weeks now, lover, lover.
He keeps telling me

You’ve got terrific lungs.

Figure F.   Mammogram showing stellate lesions, suspicious
for breast cancer. Note the clusters, in pairs.

Daughter, we’re rocking
And at my breast you tunnel,
Tugging, tweaking, your

Little mewlings a pleasure
As unexpected as this ringing.
Whoever’s calling

At 2 a.m., I’m
Thinking of carnage. It’s my
Baby sister. I have

Stage IV, stage IV, and
Can you come right out? Between
Our phones, there’s the roar

Like the ocean’s, as
If we were holding shells up
To our ears, a song

Not unlike the blood’s.
She’s only 40. Tattoo.
Radiation markings.

Ablation. Neither
Of us will say cancer,
Neither of us

Mentions our mother.
Daughter, I hold you tighter
To my breast.