Recollections From The Poet’s Training Bra


Before me,

you dropped out

of ballet class, tired from slouching,

hiding what the plie-ing tweens

already knew:


you had boobs.

Evidenced by your fourth

grade Disneyland vacation photos—

your torso whooping—

Hey look! I’m a



You needed me

for at least a year before

finally allowing your mother

to take you shopping to find me, frill-free,

flopping on a rack in a fluorescent-lit

Sears. I trained

you for skills



never need:

reconciling unnecessary

dangling straps no mature version

of me ever possessed. Bury them

in the polyester utilitarian

uni-cup? Or cut


them off and cross

your fingers your shoulders

would never change sizes?

I hazed you.



for a lifetime

wondering whether

anything you were supposed

to wear or do or prove or be as a woman

had any point.


I tried to keep you secure.

Failed when that grown-up driving a vintage

mustard Chevy pulled up beside your Huffy, poked

his head out the window to say nice tits, on your way to the park

to hang with Monica Magnison, proprietor of the right currency:

dishwater blond spiral perm, lake cabin, ideal-sized thighs,

and a flat chest. For at least one day, owning me

made you an expert to Monica’s mom

who, while you picked black olives

off pizza casserole in her dining

room, asked, Where does your

mother buy your training bras?

For once,

it was Monica who left

the table, embarrassed, foreshadowing

the sixth grade when her underlings demanded

you find a new lunch spot, leaving you standing

alone, protruding above the cafeteria plane

like conspicuous developments shaping

a baggy cotton t-shirt. Many friends,

then two body parts, then one you.

A first lesson in owning

the parts of yourself

you resist.



Hanging Your Name On The Wall


Maybe it was our tenth date. We mixed

low brow with high: cheeseburgers and an art gallery.

Some women, when they make love,

withdraw from their own pleasure

to appear sexy for a man.

I don’t do that in bed, but to the detriment

of my own enjoyment,

I did try too hard

to look adorable,

seated across from you while eating

delicate bites of a Shackburger.


Later at the gallery, a woman

wearing leopard print loafers compliments

my color-blocked outfit: gold corduroy skirt,

burnt orange tights, red suede boots. Your face

reads her praise

as a five-star Yelp review.

Neither she nor you know I bought

ten skirts after our first date just to prove

I was enough.


You linger

in front of an exhibit—used envelopes covered

in black ink drawings of human silhouettes—

the first time you say my name to me.

Valerie, see this? 

You point at these unassuming

common objects elevated into art.

Oh wow, JIM. I echo.


Saying our names feels

like speaking a new language for the first time.

Like we got caught talking shit. Except

we were gossiping to each other.

Not like how it feels now to say your name.

To my therapist. Over and over.

Or defensive when I say it to my mother.

Or like when I say it to Tessa, every Saturday morning on the trail,

trying to sound aloof.

It feels different from how it sounds now,

in a poem about you. A name

I would never

choose to put in

a poem:





Kind of a stupid name.

The name of a man you call to find out if you qualify

to refinance. A Jim sells tires,

or helps you change one, without instilling fear.

It is not the name of a person exalted

into ubiquity like Starry Night coffee tumblers

the entire population of everywhere seems to carry.

Not the name of a person whose memory hangs

out for seasons like an abandoned

wasp’s nest under an awning.



Valerie Nies (she/her/hers) is a comedian, writer, and gluten enthusiast whose writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, Reductress, and Oddball Magazine. Find her in Austin, Texas, scanning WebMD. She’s also on Twitter/IG @valerieknees and at