Friday, July 3, 2009

Preparing for my poetry writing retreat

I just had a pedicure in preparation for dipping into those wonderful sulfur hot springs at Esalen in Big Sur next week. How could I go in without perfect toes? Actually the toes will have nothing to do with the poems I write, but it's best to be prepared for anything.

Here's a piece I wrote many years ago about getting a manicure. It was my first attempt in writing something surreal. Perhaps it was my last as well.


I watched her as she carefully set the implements on the table. The files, in graduating sizes, the picks, the chisels, the sanding paper, the paint brushes and cans of paint – all in perfect sanitized rows in front of her. She asked for my index finger. I unscrewed it and gave it to her and she began her work.

As she bent over my finger I could see that her head came to a bald point on the top that she covered with a sprig of holly berries, twisted around and around the point like a Christmas tree. The rest of her hair lay in long wisps to the floor like a light blanket wrapped around her body and chair. She looked pale today – a whiter shade than usual -- and in the pupils of her eyes were outlines of unicorns waiting patiently to escape.

She kept working on my finger, pushing the green crusted skin aside until she found the pearl – a beautiful iridescent sphere that she sanded until smooth. She began painting it, first black, then a bluish-green like the sea. And as she painted, the pearl grew. It became a long pointed talon that reached out to its origins, grabbing a scoop of the sea water and returning to the table to anoint us with the salty spray. She set that finger aside to dry. She asked for another and I gave it to her and another and another until she had a row of painted talons hanging like an expansion bridge across her table.

Then she got up and first took off my right arm and then my left and put them around herself like a hug. She began twirling like a dervish, and the unicorns leading her by her hair swept her away into the void.

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