Poems by Oriah
are my mother’s breasts
sagging, stretched, flattened
large brown-pink nipples
flecked with small dots
like the tiny bumps on the uncooked turkey
where feather quills have been removed.
The areola is edged with thin blue veins
and sometimes sprouts wiry hairs
to be plucked.
At nine I walk into the bathroom
filled with warm steam
and the scent of Chantilly Lace talcum powder
and look away quickly
when my eyes touch my mother’s breast
as she bends over to dry her feet.
But she catches me
and answers my look
with a slash of her voice.
“Yes, this is what you did to me
you and your brother.
My breasts got smaller with each of you.
Good thing I didn’t nurse or I’d have
But we both know it is not
the size that is mourned
but the smooth firmness
and the delicate shell pink
of unstretched nipples
reaching up to meet the world.
I look down at my blue sneakers
ashamed at the ugliness of life
and wonder what she feels she has left
for herself . . . .
From DREAMS OF DESIRE (Mountain Dreaming, 1995, out of print).
“The Marriage Trap” by Alan Ayers, Original artwork, 2005.