homage to my breasts


these breasts of mine
still big but softer now
more pendulous
I am grateful to you
as I never was before
you were for so long
a source of self-consciousness
a magnet for catcalls
and unwanted glances
the bane of
button-down blouses
and golf swings
how I wished
to make myself smaller
my shoulders slouching
ineffectually to hide you
I didn’t understand then
the super power
of feeding a baby
with my body
with you
not an easy gift
the first months
so painful you couldn’t bear
the touch of clothes
so I lived in a bathrobe
pulled open above the waist
for weeks not caring
I flashed my family
over and over again
all that mattered
was latching the baby
through the pain
the little noises
of contentment
he would make
his milk drunk body
limp in my tired arms
you rose to the challenge
survived the days it took me
to learn how to hold
him to you
nipples changing shape
from the hours
of friction from tongue and gums
and eventually teeth
the slow healing
from rawness to scabs
to whole skin again
through it all you made milk
more than he could drink
I felt like a cornucopia
all abundance
mother goddess
even now
months after weaning
you yield up
hidden sweetness
with a single squeeze
so I thank you
my breasts
dear ones
never again
will I bow
my shoulders
to hide your fullness

Hyejung Kook’s poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Prairie Schooner, wildness, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Verse Daily, the Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in The Critical Flame and Flight, a chamber opera libretto. She is a Fulbright grantee and a Kundiman fellow.