"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.

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