Toenail Hash

This is a poem I wrote over 20 years ago. It was written during a time when I was struggling with poetry class in college, until the light suddenly turned on and the words just flowed. It’s pretty morbid, which speaks to the fact that I had no clue who I was at the time, and was reading a lot of Anne Rice (who wrote the Vampire Lestat and other wonderful other-worldly books.)

Toenail Hash
Written by Diana Ray sometime in 1992

She likes to eat toenails for breakfast.
Her feet are plucked
like a pigs with bloody hooves
hanging from a wire in a Chinese store
I saw once on vacation.
Ribbed, when touched.
Her favorite is salted pinky nail
with just a bit of cuticle along the edges,
doused with lemon
this makes it just right.
I watch her some mornings
impatient for her body
to regenerate its lost flesh,
massaging in dripped saliva
as it falls in heavy strands
from where she stands drooling.
I felt sympathetic
and went out and bought her
10 little toy helmets,
one for each toe,
so as to encourage her body
to makes its own.
But even then after a week or so
any signs of life are hastily pitched
into a hot frying pan
full of olive oil and basil.
She offers me a little and I try it,
all the while staring in heat
at my own toes,
tucked and rotting
beneath an old pair of Nikes
and emerald ragwool socks.
“Everything dies,” she tells me solemnly.
“There are no preservatives to buy,
not even the ones we eat can help.
Eventually you will be nothing
but a mass of dead skin cells
aged and sallow
yellowing like lumps
of curdled milk gone bad.”
I picture this as she speaks
and slowly remove my sneakers and socks,
my feet a damp fleshy mass of seaweed,
and allow her to rip my toenails off
one by one
which we fry up in fresh garlic and onion,
a delicacy.
Afterwards I lay satiated
and wonder how long it will be
until my own toe nails grow back
so I can cook them in honey and butter
which is my favorite.

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