If I were French, I’d write
about breasts, structuralist treatments
of breasts, deconstructionist breasts,
Gertrude Stein’s breasts in Père Lachaise
under stately marble. Film noire breasts
no larger than olives, Edith Piaf’s breasts
shadowed under a song, mad breasts raving
in the bird market on Sunday.
Tanguy breasts softening the landscape,
the politics of nipples (we’re all equal).
A friend remembers nursing,
his twin a menacing blur. But wait,
We’re in America, where breasts
were pointy until 1968. I once invented
a Busby Berkeley musical with naked women
underwater sitting at a counter
where David Bowie soda-jerked them
ice cream glaciers. it sounds so sexual
but had a Platonic airbrushed air.
Beckett calls them dugs, which makes me think
of potatoes, but who calls breasts potatoes?
Bolshoi dancers strap down their breasts
while practicing at the bar.
You guess they’re thinking of sailing,
but probably it’s bread, dinner,
and the Igor Zlotick Show (their
Phil Donahue). There’s a photo of me
getting dressed where I’m surprised
by Paul and try to hide my breasts, and another
this year, posed on a pier with my breasts
reflected in silver sunglasses. I blame
it on summer when flowers overcome gardens
and breasts point at the stars. Cats
have eight of them, and Colette tells
of a cat nursing its young while
being nursed by its mother. Imagine the scene
rendered human. And then there’s the Russian
story about the woman…but wait,
they’ve turned the lights down, and Humphrey
Bogart is staring at Lauren Bacall’s breasts
as if they might start speaking.
Reading this poem made me gleeful.
Maxine Chernoff is the author of five collections of poetry, two collections of short stories and three novels. She teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University and co-edits New American Writing.