"Breasts Like Martinis"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 23 2007 7:35 AM

"Breasts Like Martinis"

Listen  to Jill McDonough read this poem.


The bartender at Caesar's tells jokes we've heard a hundred times.
A shoelace walks into a bar, for example. I whisper
Sarah Evers told me that joke in sixth grade
and Josey says 
My brother Steve, 1982. A whore, a midget, a Chinaman,
nothing we haven't heard. Then a customer asks
Why are breasts like martinis? and they both start laughing.
They know this one, everybody knows this one, except
us. They don't even bother with the punch line. The bartender just says
Yeah, but I always said there should be a third one, on the back,
for dancing, dancing with the woman-shaped air behind the bar, his hand 
on the breast on her back. So we figure three is too many, 
one's not enough. Okay; we can do better than that. I like my breasts
like I like my martinis
, we say: Small andbruised or big and dry. Perfect.
Overflowing. Reeking of juniper,
spilling all over the bar.
When I have a migraine and she reaches for me, I say
Josey,my breasts are like martinis. She nods, solemn:
People should keep their goddamn hands off yours. How
could we tell these jokes to the bartender? We can't. He'll never know.
I say it after scrubbing the kitchen cabinets, and she gets it:
dirty and wet. Walking in the wind, Josey says My breasts 
are like martinis
and I hail a cab, know she means shaking, ice cold.

Jill McDonough is a Wallace Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.