Giving a Manicure

By Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946 Minnie Bruce Pratt
The woman across from me looks so familiar,
but when I turn, her look glances off. At the last
subway stop we rise. I know her, she gives manicures
at Vogue Nails. She has held my hands between hers
several times. She bows and smiles. There the women
wear white smocks like technicians, and plastic tags
with their Christian names. Susan. No, not Susan,
whose hair is cropped short, who is short and stocky.
This older lady does my hands while classical music,
often Mozart, plays. People passing by outside are
doubled in the wall mirror. Two of everyone walk
forward, backward, vanish at the edge of the shop.
Susan does pedicures, pumice on my heels as I sit
on the stainless-steel throne. She bends over, she
kneads my feet in the water like laundry. She pounds
my calves with her fists and her cupped palms slap
a working beat, p’ansori style. She talks to the others
without turning her head, a call in a language shouted
hoarse across fields where a swallow flew and flew
across the ocean, and then fetched back to Korea
a magic gourd seed, back to the farmer’s empty house
where the seed flew from its beak to sprout a green vine.
When the farmer’s wife cut open the ripe fruit, out spilled
seeds of gold. Choi Don Mee writes that some girls
in that country crush petals on their nails, at each tip
red flowers unfold. Yi Yon-ju writes that some women
there, as here, dream of blades, knives, a bowl of blood.

Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Giving a Manicure” from The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Used with the permission of the author.

Source: The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Gender & Sexuality, Social Commentaries, The Body, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Minnie Bruce  Pratt

Biography

Minnie Bruce Pratt is recognized as an eminent poet in the United States. In addition to receiving acclaim for her verse, Pratt is acknowledged as an essayist, activist, lesbian-feminist, and educator. By chronicling her existence in poetry and prose, Pratt has explored themes reflecting the particularities of her life. She has surveyed her Southern, middle-class upbringing, her ten-year marriage and strained divorce, her battle . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Gender & Sexuality, Social Commentaries, The Body, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.