At Model Nails
In early morning light, large black
eyes stare from his shower-fogged mirror.
He compares his profile with worn photo
of his father. Once, his mother stitched
it in a secret panel of her tunic,
hiding her lover’s face from Viet Cong.
His mind wanders back to days of childhood.
Cruel taunts prattle from Vietnamese tongues,
chattered whispers return, full volume…
“You children without fathers are like homes
without roofs. Ugly bastard left-over!
Child of dust! Who’s your Daddy?”
At Model Nails, he scrubs dead skin
from feet, infuses lavender into cracked soles,
trims toenails on hundreds of phalanges.
More than two decades he’s worked,
stooped over, bending, twisting
from a red three-peg stool.
He greets customers with a smile,
massages legs in a habitual rhythm
that reminds him of an ancient song
his mother often sang, washing clothes
along muddy banks of the Mekong.
If she were here, he’d paint stars
and stripes on her nails, perhaps
fireworks or a blood-red flag
with a sinking yellow star.
– Sharon Frye
© 2015, poem, Sharon Frye, All rights reserved