A Poem By Jessica Neno Cloud

Mama had elegant oval fingernails
And so did all the ladies in Vogue
And all the engagement ring ads
But my hands were square
And my nails
So small
And round
And unwomanly
That the Lee press-ons never would fit
Mine were not elegant
And never grew to be.
As an adult
I tried to grow my nails
Manicure them into an unnatural shape
Like a topiary on my fingertips
Buffed the surface til
The ridges were worn smooth
Lacquered them
In brilliant blue-based red,
The methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus
(Such a beautiful name for something
So deadly)
That’s when I began to wear my nails short.
Giving in to my DNA
I could give no safe harbor to that
Which took up residence in my
Nostrils and under my nails.
Vancomycin. That can kill it.
So corrosive, the intravenous line had to be changed daily.
I survived that foe.
Now my nails are perfunctory
They serve me well
Make it easier to type
Not to mention
How could I touch the velvet of the woman I love
With fingernails like kitchen knives?


Jessica Neno Cloud resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In her poetry, she explores themes of meditation, anxiety, spirituality and finding meaning in everyday experience. Her academic work focuses on the influence of yoga philosophy on T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. In her career, she works as a higher education fundraiser for Starr King School for the Ministry while parenting two whimsical and often delightful children.



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