it was nice to be taken care of/ say I dozed off with my hand in the nail tech’s/ as she spoke about her sons/ as she shaped my nails almond & painted tiny landscapes/ just on the ring fingers/ I joke that all my fingers are ring fingers/ shimmy my hands to flash/ sterling silver turquoise wampum/ my grandmother purchased several of the rings/ at the PIMC giftshop/ she knew the nurses/ once girls at the Phoenix Indian School/ where my grandmother worked/ after leaving her rez/ after marrying a man with the last name Nuñez/ every December/ she wrestled a large metal tub from the garage/ remnant of the school’s cafeteria/ in the tub large enough to be an incubator/ she’d mix masa well by hand/ I’d watch/ when I was born/ a nurse said / pity an Indian baby so white/ I chewed my nails to the quick & then tore at the quick/ now self-care/ or my nails cost so much/ I can’t afford the ruin/ I joke I am a bird/ attracted to glistening/ am told my rings are typical Indian/ I buried a ring in the lining of my grandmother’s casket/ adjusted the engagement ring/ on my mother’s cold finger/ my nails long almond shaped/ my wrists widening with age/ what I’m trying to say/ is when I look at my hands/ they’re not mine
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TO READ MORE POETRY, PICK UP A COPY OF VOL 56 No. 2
MARY LEAUNA CHRISTENSEN, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is a PhD candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi. Mary is managing editor of The Swamp. Her work can be found in Cream City Review, the Laurel Review, Southern Humanities Review, Denver Quarterly, and the Gettysburg Review, among others. She was also named an Indigenous Nations Poets fellow for the inaugural In-Na-Po retreat in 2022, as well as a returning fellow for 2023.