United States

Message from Writer

your enchanting ghost

learned behavior

January 20, 2019


my sister bites her nails 
mom howls and smacks wet fingers out of her mouth
this is how you get an infection! 
we three look at nail-bitten horrors on google
they are gnarled like twisted tree roots
caked with rust and angry pink
mom yells with her eyes turned away
i shudder and sit on my fingers with their 
little oval-shaped moons
my sister crushes her teeth together 
calcified rot caught in between

we sleep in the same bed
my sister tells me stories at night with
words slurred like half-melted sugar
but i won't sleep without them 
she talks with her mouth full
i am lulled under by mumbled tales
of high school and frantic keratin corrosion

in the mirror she is two heads taller 
here try these on! and she
puts purple earrings in for me
when i shake my head they clink
against my chin and tangle in my hair
she un-catches them, reverse fishing 
her fingers are smooth and gentle 
without the nails attached 
i look down at my oval-shaped moons 
mom never cuts them short enough 

even in sleep her teeth gnash together like 
there is something in the air 
she is trying to remove
i put my fingers to my lips 
and take my first bite. 
is this a little disturbing? yes. 


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  • rainandsonder

    I can relate to this so much it hurts. I have a problem with biting my fingernails. It used to be way worse last year and the year before that, but still. I used to bite them so much that they would bleed until my parents told me that if I kept biting them like that, they would get infected and showed me the same "nail-bitten horrors on google." The descriptions in this poem are absolutely gorgeous, the figurative language spot-on.

    almost 2 years ago
  • paperbird

    dude, this is such an amazing poem! i've also got a problem with fingernail biting--additionally i rip the skin off the pads of my fingers, and it's hard to hold a pencil the next day.
    i love the wording here, like "words slurred like half-melted sugar" and the last few lines: "even in sleep her teeth gnash together like / there is something in the air / she is trying to remove." the imagery is vividly beautiful! i'm going to be reading this one a couple of times. one of my favorite poems i've seen this week. there are no words.

    almost 2 years ago