When we are very, very, very small,
they put our hands into soft mitts to keep
them from going into our mouth and
into our eyes. We bat blindly at the world
in an attempt to sign something of great
importance to us. We do not aim to offend
with our tiny, muffled hands mumbling now.
They don’t understand us.
This is not what we meant at all.
When we are very, very small, they clip
our nails when we tap at our temples,
the thin bloody lines indicators of at least
shallow thought processes. We cannot but help
to scratch our bald heads at what we’ve seen
of this world already. We cannot put our fingers
on it. Hands taking from other hands the ability
to touch, to feel, to process, to do better.
Slivers of nail, frail but sharp are swept away
from our smooth chests and onto the floor.
The tips of our fingers now harmless nubs to handle
the simple tools of being a child. Our day work.
We are not allowed to protest this.
We don’t stand on the line. We do not picket.
When we are small, we are allowed to keep
them if the beds are clean. If we push back
the cuticles and we promise not to rip or tear
them, we hold our hands up to the sun
and our fingers become tools of the trade.
You cannot remove the scabs of day work
without these. You can only poke at what hurts.
A man is often judged by how he keeps his nails.
We cradle the clippings in our palms. To protect them,
we often sign in a language comprised of closed fists
raised and shaking. We stand upon a platform, one
hand raised in a fist. We mean to tell you:
They are causing confusion.”
Without them, every subject becomes a door jamb.
The corner of a counter you know juts out from the wall.
At night, nothing that would cause you to stumble
is appreciative of the blunt objects use to probe the dark.
We turn on a light and we scratch our heads.
Our hair eventually thins out and our bodies go soft.
Whiskers and nails continue to the end of a life,
both are cut or clipped away. We try to be tidy.
When we make a point, there is a chance
we might scratch. This is not what we mean.