Poem Hunter
Poems
Fingernails
(1954 / California)

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,
scrape, dig—evolutionary

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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Comments (1)

An interesting read, Hans. Fingernails, like hair and shoes, say a lot about use. Love, Fran xx


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