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2 poems by Sophia Nicholson

Seen by the doctor

The rumour came from the older girls,

who told me about the doctor,

how he would make you take off your bra

before he placed his stethoscope beneath your breasts

to hear your heart beat. I didn’t know

what would be embarrassing,

entering the room with no bra,

or being asked to remove it by the doctor

who wouldn’t think mine were big enough. He asked all the girls,

except Preeta, as he would have had to lift her very large breasts

out of the way of his stethoscope, which might have been embarrassing

for her. Maybe that was his reasoning, I don’t know.

It seemed that every two years this doctor

came to examine all the girls in our girls’

school. The matron standing in the corner was embarrassing.

Was she taking notes on my breasts?

Everyone thought she was very mannish, no

doubt because of her deep, booming voice. Did she wear a bra?

Lying on the examination table, I felt my breasts

cold and tight without the warm protection of my bra.

I wondered whether all the other girls

acted like this was normal too. I’ll never know.

I hoped my burgundy Age 13 knickers weren’t too embarrassing.

I never imagined they’d be seen by the doctor.

When it was finished, the doctor

said, Come and sit on my knee. I couldn’t say no.

The touch of my thighs on his knees was so embarrassing.

I tried to hold my flesh away, hoping my breasts

would not be too noticeable. My bra,

at least, he’d never see. Did all the girls

behave this way, politeness covering shame like a bra?

What does daddy do? asked the doctor.

He died, I said. I don’t know

if he looked at me differently then, like a girl

to be pitied. The vomit trickle streaking my pants was embarrassing,

my humiliation hidden between my breasts.

I don’t know why I preferred to enter the examination room with bare breasts

than for the doctor to watch me take off my bra

at his bidding. But most embarrassing was sitting on his knee, a well-behaved girl.

The nurse tells me to have a glass of wine

With any kind of pressure, it’s clenched and tight.

It could be to do with anxiety.

It flinches like an eyelid avoiding light.

Maybe I need surgery?

Mindfulness. Sensate focus. Vaginal trainers.

Could it be down to a painful history?

Try a set of increasingly wide dilators?

I do. They’re like the kiss of a blunted saw,

or fingertips too close to the grater,

the useless twist when a screw thread’s worn.

Lubrication. Squeezing and releasing –

controlling the muscles of the pelvic floor –

can lead to involuntary contractions decreasing.

15 minutes with a Kegel ball –

or find a man whose penis is nice and small.


Sophia Nicholson is a poet and songwriter. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in

Ink Sweat and Tears, New Welsh Review, the Mechanics’ Institute Review and Stand. Her

debut E.P., Blue Sky Falling, is available on all streaming services.


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