At Model Nails

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


I curate The Poet by Day, and am a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. The Poet by Day [] is an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights. Email for permissions, commissions, or assignments. I am also the founding editor of "The BeZine" and manage all associated activities. Email:

3 thoughts on “At Model Nails

  1. Beautifully done. “He compares his profile with worn photo……if she were here, he’d paint stars…”. Such a sense of loneliness, loss, non-belonging. This is where the healing of inclusion is felt and needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. The imagery in this is so visceral and intense. I can picture this boy/man in crystal clarity – I have seen him, and women like him, too, on the once-a-year occasion that my mom and I both go get pedicures. We always try to engage the person helping us in conversation and although they only know limited English, they seem to appreciate being spoken to with true interest, as human beings and not ‘servants’. This is a well-crafted piece. Thank you for sharing it with us! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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