A Favorite Poem (Issue #28)

Hello, there!

Granted, it has been a long while since I’d written the last “A Favorite Poem” issue, but in any case, it’s back on track (for the moment, at least!). This month’s poem dates from a couple month’s back, but all the same, it’s theme of love and tenderness continues to be a touching subject worth exploring.

At Twenty-Three Weeks She Can No Longer See Anything South of Her Belly (by Thom Ward).

I’m painting my wife’s toes
In Revlon Super Color Forty Nine.
I’ve no idea what I’m doing.
She asked me to get the bottle,
then crashed on our bed,
muscle-sore, pelvis-aching.
Lifting the brush, I skim
the excess polish across the glass,
daub a smidgen on her nail,
push it out in streaks
over the perfect surface
to the cuticle’s edge.
I’m painting my wife’s toes.
I’ve no idea what I’m doing.
The smell of fresh enamel
intoxicates. Each nail I glaze
is a tulip, a lobster,
a scarlet room where women
sit and talk, their sleek,
tinctured fingers sparking the air.

What first struck me about this poem was its imagery– colorful and vivid, it seemed to give off the idea of a still-life painting that has since been brought to life through verbs such as “painting,” “skim,” “glaze.” Even the most mundane activities like nail painting is turned into a huge art form here, which is fascinating, to say the least.

The next thing to address is the theme of the poem, which again is about love and tenderness. More specifically, the love and tenderness refer to the couple (the speaker and his pregnant wife) and their love is shown through an interesting reversal of gender roles as the speaker (presumably a man) does his best to paint his wife’s nails, since she is unable to do so because of her extreme pregnancy, as mentioned in the title. The awkwardness of doing so, as repeatedly hinted at through the lines, “I’ve no idea what I’m doing,” is also somewhat endearing, and I’m pretty sure that the wife appreciates her husband’s willingness to go out of his comfort zone and make her feel comfortable while pregnant.

While the whole idea of being pregnant is seen in society as something “unsexy” compared with the fact that sex was used to do so in the first place, Ward does an interesting job of making pregnancy “sexy” again or, more accurately-speaking, sensual. Much of the imagery appears to focus on the color red, which is often associated with love, lust, sensuality, and so forth. The words that Ward connects the color red to, “Each nail I glaze/is a tulip, a lobster,/a scarlet room,” represents different points of love and life in a woman’s life. For instance, the “tulip” on one of the nails represents the initial love and courtship between him and his wife, the “lobster” suggests the pain associated with childbirth, and the “scarlet room where women/sit and talk, their sleek,/tinctured fingers sparking the air” presents a female community, a sort of feminism in which such women can enjoy each other’s company and mature with age.

Overall, much of this poem centers on the love and desire to make the woman happy, which goes against the trope of pleasing the man in many literary novels and so forth. I definitely encourage you to give this poem a read– otherwise, have a good day!

— The Finicky Cynic

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