I wanted blossoms and skulls
a nail polish metaphor representing life and death
but the Vietnamese nail tech refused
to paint skulls on my nails
shook her head and looked at me askance.
I told her it was a metaphor
showed her a photo of what I wanted.
She shook her head again, spoke rapidly to her co-workers
shook her head again and gestured curtly, a cutting motion
with her hands.
Sigh. I didn’t want to upset her further
by trying to explain my desire for such symbolism
so I told her just to give me branches with blossoms
petals unfurled and branches black
against the startling pink of my pedicure.
I thought of sugar skulls and the Day of the Dead
and how different cultures view things in their own way
and who is to say
Maybe we’re all right
in that it is the conviction of our belief
that makes these charms, these symbols, these metaphors
work for us, influence us, bless or malign us.
We are the motivating factor behind all our spiritual graffiti.
The writing on the wall only comes true
through the power of me and you.
So anyway, my nails look great!
— Annette Marie Smith
(Poem #19 National Poetry Month)