Originally published April 2016 and republished with the express permission of the author.


Here on my chest are these things called breasts,

I spent many years waiting for them to appear,

a sign of womanhood clear to see,

a curvaceous indication of puberty

and attainment of the adult state,

I got them late.

Flea bites, gnat bites, two poached eggs,

it seemed as if the concept had grown legs

and run away to join the media circus,

all the bright lights and fun of a world constructed,

not reality, designed to create inferiority,

to sell, sell, sell, it was just as well

that my own mother was wise to tricks

and dismissed them with the flick of a switch.

I was none the wiser, so I never tried

to hide a body growing healthy and strong,

I wasn’t wealthy enough to afford

a bra in every colour, so it was all white

for me, a symbol of purity,

until my late teens when my wardrobe went black,

I’ve never looked back.

But how we see breasts puzzles me,

a part of the body subjected to so much attention,

across time a corseted heaving bosom

enough to drive a romantic hero wild,

to the opposite end of the scale where binding

them makes finding them hard a task

for those who wish to mask them,

the flatter the better if you wish you had none.

And what’s with the idea that bikinis are ok,

but if you use them to feed a baby, wow, no way!

That’s obscene! It shouldn’t be seen!

And if you must breastfeed, cover up,

lift your top up, if you pull it down,

people will think you’re easy, all over town;

I don’t get it, it’s what they’re made for,

yet society is disgusted and we’ve mistrusted

our own bodies for far too long ~ this can’t go on.

We use them for pleasure, yet they can be a pain,

with nipple cracks and thrush attacks, blebs and blood,

the stuff of nightmares, but don’t worry, relax,

with the right support, they can work again,

be free of pain. And if they can’t there are alternatives

and yes, I am glad of those, but I don’t suppose

many women know the business norms

behind marketing storms, designed simply

to part us from our money, and the lies and pretence

of added value are really not funny.

As we age, maybe they descend,

our once skyward friends headed south for comfort,

muscle tone changing our shape, our eyes

now focused on other prizes, but don’t forget

to check for lumps and bumps and signs

of an unwelcome visitor that could steal away

your life, catch it early, deal it a death blow,

or even take a knife to the very thing you wished for,

removed to save your own life.

We don’t talk about older womens’ breasts,

we look away, as if to say, they are not a thing

of beauty and it’s our duty to cover them,

but they don’t offend my eyes and we need to know

the spectrum of normal healthy bodies, not shame

and hiding because truths don’t match what others

want us to see; truths really make us free.

So give me breasts, boobies, baps or a rack,

bangers, bristols, flotation devices,

threepenny bits, tits if you really must;

mimi, mulks, this side and that,

righty and lefty, this one and that one,

all together and undone, free the nipple

or cover up, do as you please, sitting on the sofa

or swinging from the trees.

Alison Jones is an LLL Leader, a writer, and teacher from Oxford. She is a mother to three children. She is passionate about breastfeeding and advocates for women and families.