Fingernails - Poem by Hans Ostrom
Neither bone nor skin nor food,
fingernails are tools we mouth,
deploy, and decorate. None
of us is ever so civilized—
whatever civilized means-
that we won’t, when
need be, start to claw,
eons collapsing, leaving
residue of whole lost worlds
in our instinctual hands. Just
to scratch the scalp is such
a human gesture—and not; such
a basic lice-finding task—and not.
If your fingernails are soiled, they
file a report on your social status.
If they are manicured, they may
purr concerning leisure’s delicacy. If
bitten, they murmur of gnawing self-
doubt. If artificial—how fascinating.
I have heard that employees of alleged
civilized societies pull out fingernails
with pliers. This is torture: remember?
It is blood underneath human fingernails.
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