Poems & Essays

19 Aug

Fingernails

General/Column One Response

When I was young
I bemoaned ever having long nails
and I bit them and chewed them
and picked them through the stress
of each new boyfriend becoming old and 
every old boyfriend wanting 
to switch to something new.
And when I thought I needed them to be
long and strong
to mount a good offense or a strong defense
they remained flimsy and bent
they broke and peeled
leaving me feeling defenseless and vulnerable.
But as I have aged they have changed.
Gotten harder, more layered,
more prone to growing
unable to be broken or bitten
requiring tools and weaponry 
to tame them down to acceptable levels.
And I remember looking at my mother’s hands
when I was young
and admiring her long, strong, beautiful nails.
My mother who fought with me 
when I brought home a new boyfriend 
she knew would become an old boyfriend
after he gouged out a piece of my heart.
My mother who fearlessly 
and sometimes ruthlessly protected me
from all things,
myself included,
at the time when I was still bone soup,
growing and not yet hardened off
like a young apple tree before it can bear fruit
spine malleable and tilted with
active growth plates
flexible and changing.
And I look at my own daughters 
growing into the soil,
putting down tentative roots 
and sending out feelers
beyond the safety of my limbs
like small birds in a treed nest
setting themselves to take flight 
and I see their soft, small nails
absolutely no good for defense 
and I think maybe it is nature’s way
of passing down safety messages
down through generations the way crows 
will scold and caw
to warn others of danger.
And I see how my talons have grown 
in exactly the right way
to make sure my daughters will fledge
and grow and survive
until they grow the talons they need
to protect their own
precious young.

Alison D. Hauch is an educator and mother of twin daughters who studied English Literature and Dance at Western University. In her spare time she loves to read, practice yoga and bake fattening food. She writes about the everyday experiences of being a woman and a mother and how these experiences have changed over time.

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1 Comment

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  1. Ingrid

    August 19, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Just this morning I was helping my daughter clip her flimsy, peeling, good-for-nothing-but biting fingernails. Thanks to your poem, I will be watching carefully how they change over the years.

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