In Praise of My Manicure

Because I was taught all my life to blend in, I want

my fingernails to blend out: like preschoolers

 

who stomp their rain boots in a parking lot, like coins

who wink at you from the scatter-bottom of a fountain,

 

like red starfish who wiggle a finger dance at you,

like green-faced Kathakali dancers who shape

 

their hands into a bit of hello with an anjali—I tell you,

from now on I and my children and their children

 

will hold four fingers up—a pallavam, a fresh sprout

with no more shame, no more shrink, and if the bright

 

colors and glittered stars of my fingertips scare you,

I will shape my fingers into sarpasirassu—my favorite,

 

a snake—sliding down my wrist and into each finger:

just look at these colors so marvelous so fabulous.

 

See the two snakes where my brown arms once were.

See that movement near my elbow, now at my wrist?

 

A snake heart can slide up and down the length of its body

when it needs to. You’ll never be able to catch my pulse, my shine.

 

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming in 2018). Her collection of nature essays, World of Wonder, is forthcoming from Milkweed. Nezhukumatathil’s honors include a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is poetry editor of Orion magazine and professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.