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The Nail Salon on Second Avenue

A Poem

Published on:
October 19, 2020
Read time:
2 min.
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I enter
needing to be kneaded,
to have the bulbous knots pulled apart
like a child’s mother undoing his shoestring,
utilitarian in its softness.

The bottle I choose is
red red red, blood rising to a glistening bead,
a token to grant me
admission to a seat, the one where I can lower my feet
into the hot cauldron of water
and say yes yes yes
when you ask if I want to add the
scrub and the soak and the
extra extra extra.

I have come here to be touched,
to feel hands I won’t think about later
rearrange the stale tangles and snarled threads
that mat beneath my skin,
unseen but pulsing pulsing pulsing,
pleading for the tip of a cold finger that is not
mine.

Each night, my arm hits the shadowed pillow
beside my own.
No hot breath on the slant in my neck,
no knee pressed into the parabola of my spine,
nothing to awake to when the sticky tar-blackness
halts my breath and the
starless sky begs one to reconsider an objection to accepting
cheap affection.
I am gnawed by the dull fangs of lack lack lack.

So that is why I am sitting with you now,
letting you wipe the husk of my calves
with salt—seasoning me like a lamb—
and scrape the belly of my feet with a cheese-grater,
and drain the small pool of everything dead dead dead
that has fallen from me.

You grease your hands until they gleam,
and I gird myself to be anointed.
To feel honey-gold oil drip drip drip
down one’s leg like the streams of the holy land
is to believe one is pulled from some scorched pit
and chosen by God.
He anoints my head and shins and stubbed big toe with oil,
and I overflow.

Mid-sanctification,
as the oil soaks deep to marrow,
I wonder why such a chosenness must cost me
$57.20, plus tip.
Perhaps perhaps perhaps your strange hands are no better than
a stranger in my bed,
just as lacking in knowing and generosity and covenant.
Perhaps perhaps perhaps  the need to feel my skin cry like a tuning fork,
to remember the nerved layers of my soul-home,
is really a need to feel spit-and-mud-fringed fingers cover
my eyes
and to grab a divine tunic hem
and to lie in wing-shadow, warm as oil and cool as wind through
nail-haunted hands. 

Audrey Elledge
Audrey Elledge is the SparkNotes Editor at the Barnes & Noble headquarters in New York City. She is a former winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize and Virginia Beall Poetry Prize. Writing fiction and poetry in her free time, Audrey attempts to encapsulate whatever holy ache she feels that day. Most recently, she co-wrote a set of liturgies for everyday anxieties which can be found at liturgies.nyc. Follow her on Twitter at @AudreyMae17.

Cover image by Kris Atomic

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