Many women fail to check their own breasts for suspicious lumps on a regular monthly basis.
— The American Cancer Society
So now I should be taking special care
of them, is that it? Every month go pat
pat pat—when what they’ve done for me is flat
out zero? Nothing? Case in point: where
were they when I was fourteen, fifteen,
and topographically a putting green?
Not to mention nights when I disgraced
my gender, stuffing tissue paper down
my polo shirt or confirmation gown—
my philosophy on staying chaste
having less to do with things profound
than fear of giving off a crunchy sound.
And now you’re saying, Minister to them!
these very breasts that caused me great gymnasiums
of misery and high humiliation—
Institute a monthly regimen!
meaning I’m to walk my fingers gingerly
around these two molehills in front of me.
Sorry, but my hands have dropped straight down
like baby birds. They will not rise
to the occasion, won’t get organized,
refuse to land on enemy terrain.
They simply twitch and fidget in my lap
as if they sense a booby trap—
As if they hear the moron in my head
insisting that I’ll never be caught dead.
This poem first appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, May 1998).
Used here with the author's permission.