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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

The Manicure

by Jana-Lee Germaine

—for Nan
When my grandmother began to die,
to really die, not the prelude of heart
doctors and salt-free diets and pills
arranged on her kitchen counter
like a tile mosaic,
not when we thought she had
years left, and would speak
of New Hampshire,
how we’d take her
every summer weekend to the cabin
she’d built with my grandfather
fifty years before, clearing the land
themselves, then building
with help from friends—frame,
wiring, plumbing, roof,
painting the whole thing rust red
with sky blue trim,
when we’d talk to her of sitting
in her glider on the open porch
to watch loons dive
below the lake’s dark surface
and reappear one hundred yards away,
of swimming to her rock
or tangling herself in blueberry bushes,
cracker tin tied to her waist,
emerging later with enough
for jam and grump and pie,
but when these things were past mentioning,
when doctors said, Too weak
to operate and her kidneys failed
and her world compressed
into Weeks, maybe a month,
she began to shrivel from inside,
like the apple I found today
in the trunk of the car,
the apple that must have fallen
last autumn and lain there,
hidden, drying for six months,
now crimped in my hand.
The last time I saw her,
I clipped and filed her nails.
Brushed them with apricot polish.
I said, We’ll be back soon, and she answered
as she always did, for everything
that pleased her, Very good.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Jana-Lee Germaine

earned an MFA degree from Emerson College two years ago and moved from Massachusetts to a small village in the English countryside where she lives in the old post office and homeschools her four children. Her poems have been published in Naugatuck River Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Poet Lore, and The Christian Century.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury