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Giving a Manicure

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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)
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Giving a Manicure

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