Nail Garden

by Catherine Carter Issue: Fall/Winter 2019 Special Issue on Margins

Ranks of women crouch at feet of pale
giantesses, breathing up acetone
formaldehyde miscarriage cancer
in clear cauls. Everything damp, shriveled
fingertips, prickly calves, women who
paint clawed feet with flame-flower, topaz
sparkles, slate-silver of ocean lost
behind thousand-mile crabgrass and strip
malls, who gouge dirt of this world from horn-
plates and skin creases, chiming to one
another in registers unheard
by giantesses, songs from a gone home.
Freckled giantess slips off Naots,
says she only wants her heel-callous
filed if it doesn’t cost extra; woman
kneeling before her nods in answer,
woman who had studied medicine
back before she fled the coup for these
rows of wet feet, this garden of nails,
woman who had specialized in cancer.

Catherine Carter

Catherine Carter lives with her husband near Western Carolina University, where she is a professor in the English Education and professional writing programs. Her most recent collection of poetry is Larvae of the Nearest Stars (LSU Press, 2019); her work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, and Ploughshares, among others. It has won the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2018 James Applewhite Prize for poetry, the Roanoke-Chowan Award, the Randall Jarrell Award, the Jacar Press annual chapbook contest, and the Still: The Journal award for poetry.