The Bra

Poem by Jyhene Kebsi

My straps are weary of carrying her heavy breasts 
My straps are weary of carrying swollen breasts over a sad chest 

My greasy straps  
are weary, like her torn slippers 
Tight cups squash swollen breasts 
Tight slippers squeeze bruised feet  

My straps queue for food, medicine, toilets, the phone…. 
My straps are weary from kyriarchy 
Her breasts speak to me 
They sigh and confess: 
They miss the carob tree 
They want to flee 
from the smell of urine to the smell of the tree  
They mourned her swollen fall  
from palm trees to Villawood  
Her breasts whisper: 
No pads until labour 
Will they stare at her during labour? 
What will be her baby’s number? 

She bites my straps 
Bites her arms, bites her shirt, bites her fingers 

She craves Arabic coffee 
Nostalgia for her mother Kifah’s coffee 
Coffee with orange blossom 
Kifah dries orange peels in the sun  
Kifah roasts them, grinds them, adds them to her coffee 
The woman who wears me 
belongs to that warm coffee 
The sad breasts who wear me  
belong to the smell of its oranges,  
They belong  
to the dates eaten as she sips her mother’s coffee 
They belong  
to her mother’s cuddle, to her mother’s coffee 
She misses the face of her mother, 
She wants to hide in the smell of her mother, 
in the breasts of her mother 
Will her child like the smell of her mother’s coffee? 
Will Australia have similar coffee? 
If not,  
deportation will take her back to savour that coffee. 

My straps are weary 
Memories of overstaying her visa 
make her breasts heavier, heavier, heavier 

My straps listen to her breasts’ whispers
Their whispers yearn for liberty  
in one of the countries of liberty 

I am weary 
My straps and cups are weary
Of squashing her breasts 
This detainee needs to breathe, 
This prisoner needs a bigger bra 

***

Jyhene Kebsi is a Lecturer in Gender Studies at Macquarie University. Before coming to Macquarie, Dr. Kebsi worked as a Teaching Fellow in the English Department at the University of Sydney. She also taught at both the University of Western Sydney and Saint Thomas University in the United States. Dr. Kebsi’s research and teaching focus on transnational feminism, globalization, postcolonialism, asylum and world literature. Dr. Kebsi is the recipient of multiple prizes and awards, including Fulbright. 

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