Melissa Balmain

Song of the BraBall

"From Valley to shining Bay, women are … making a gesture of liberation: They're sending the bras they hate most to El Cerrito artist Emily Duffy. … 6,800 bras [have been] rolled into the BraBall, a 700-pound, 43-inch-diameter brassiere-sphere now growing in Duffy's garage."
-The Oakland Tribune

Sayonara, you Miracle bras--
We are sick of miraculous itch.
Adios, you maternity bras
With the clasps that make nursing a bitch.
See ya later, you cross-your-heart bras
That deprive us of air as we talk,
And you "ultra-strong, never-quit" bras
That collapse while we jog, bike, or walk.

Now it's off to the BraBall you go.
We are sorry we wasted our dough,
But at least you can be in a show.
(Any boyfriend or spouse who dares mock
Our obsession with lingerie schlock
Needs a day in an underwire jock.)

Women used to set fire to their bras--
Good for them, not so good for the air.
Now a sculpture constructed of bras
Seems just right for the eco-aware.
And besides, it's a hoot that you bras,
With no hooters inside you to tame,
Are becoming celebrity bras.
Thanks to you, we've got jiggle-free fame.

What comes next? How will all of this end?
If we're lucky, we'll see a new trend.
Some exhibits we gals recommend:
Balls of pumps that have tortured our toes,
Balls of shoulder pads, thongs--and who knows?--
We could fill up the Met with our hose.

Smitten in Spring

I yelled this morning at my son;
I criticized my spouse.
Ten minutes after I was done,
a hailstorm hit our house.
It pummeled the whole neighborhood--
chipped roofs, denuded trees,
stripped paint from metal, clay, and wood,
concussed the chickadees.
A mile away, we later heard,
brief showers sifted down;
the only place the gods had stirred
was our small slice of town.
A next-door neighbor swigged her beer,
raked dogwood blooms aside,
and mused aloud, "Why us? Why here?"
"Just rotten luck," I lied.

To Phyllis's Ghost

"As a special bonus, a number of the author's cherished and proven recipes are included."
-From the flyleaf of Sixpence in Her Shoe, by Phyllis McGinley

It certainly is wonderful to learn
the secrets of your silky hollandaise,
your sauerbraten no gourmet would spurn,
your super dumplings, pies, and sauce béarnaise.
(How full your family must have been, most days.)
But still--I hope my tastes won't seem too odd--
there's just one question I would like to raise:
What was the recipe for your ballade?

This is no passing, trivial concern:
I need it--plus your tips on triolets,
sonnets, and epigrams. (Mine often burn
like unwatched beans, or sag like failed soufflés.)
Please tell me how to boil down a phrase
and tenderize my meter, tough as sod,
to satisfy a reader's hungry gaze.
Reveal the recipe for your ballade.

Let's face it now, before we must adjourn:
Although you may have rolled great canapés,
then browned them to a perfect crispy turn,
the reason you won half the nation's praise
was not your richly laden hostess trays.
How can it be, in all the years you trod,
you shared advice on how to bake and braise,
but not the recipe for your ballade?

Phyllis, I'm betting that these selfish ways
have landed you a little far from God.
So, quick, if you've grown weary of the blaze:
What was the recipe for your ballade?


Melissa Balmain has poems in Light Quarterly, The Formalist, Measure, Cadenza, and other journals, and in anthologies including Kiss & Part. She was a finalist for the 2005 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Her essays, articles, and humor pieces have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Details, and elsewhere. She is the author of Just Us: Adventures and Travels of a Mother and Daughter (Faber and Faber), and has taught writing at Yale University and the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a contributing editor and humor columnist for Parenting and Babytalk magazines.


Melissa Balmain
Lorna Knowles Blake
Catherine Chandler
Jehanne Dubrow
Anna Evans
Midge Goldberg
Dolores Hayden
Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Julie Kane
Luann Landon
Susan McLean
Julia Randall
Terri Witek

Therese Chabot creates delicate, ephemeral installations – carpets, dresses and crowns – using flower petals and natural materials to speak of the stages of life and the paths we are given to choose from.
32 Poems
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