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Cathryn Shea

The Truth about Silk Wraps

I shall not reveal ragged cuticles. I’ll eat bread
in the sun, sip warm root beer and rest my head.

Ming Dynasty royals loved crimson-shellacked
toes, under comforters their fingers glowed.

Have a seat, Sweetie, we’ll soak your feet
in dishwashing suds. You’ll love it, she said.

Before battle Roman generals did their nails
to match their lips, which became a plebeian fad.

Modern nail polish evolved from car paint,
in endless shades, bonds strongly to silk thread.

Babylonian priests and their gold-plated toenails,
their wives’ fingernails hennaed blood red.

Fresh roads snake the edges of the Taklimakan,
cut along the Tigris through Baghdad.

Do you think that because I must be alone
I love you less? If only you weren’t sad.

There are newly revealed oil lakes under the sand,
this damned grit makes my manicure go bad.


Jupiter’s lunar eclipse, Magi of Babylon enhance
their eyes with soot, trek to Bethlehem on this route.

A crescent gets glued near the quick of your nail bed
readied to receive enamel, perfect shape and fit.

A Taoist monk found the store of manuscripts,
Sir Aurel Stein heard rumors of this, his kismet.

Vision of a thousand monks that burn, blessedly remote,
candles. A thousand Buddhas that emit beams of light.

The sacking of Dunhuang Grottoes persists,
British Museum gets twenty-nine packing crates.

The Church of Cologne holds the bones of the Magi
which Saint Helena found in a shroud

dyed purple from snail milk, woven of silk strands,
over two thousand miles wrapped in gold thread.

No More Teeth Like Pearls

I’m having a hard time with a lead singer’s teeth, straight and neon-like teeth
distracting me. What’s the angst he’s emoting? What’s he saying with his teeth?

The Monkeys were more tragic, Milli Vanilli more authentic. I could be jealous
of his whiter than sheets-washed-in-Clorox, reflecting-in-the-sun-metal teeth,

his blinding halogen headlights. Forget “pearly.” Pearly is out, too subdued,
too creamy to limn these rows of incisors. This obsession with white teeth,

this “whitest” attesting to greed like Wallis Simpson’s “A woman can’t be too rich
or too thin.” Dukes and duchesses gargled with piss to bleach their teeth

with uric acid. That’s how subservient they were to smiles.Don’t go blaming gays.
Yes, they’ve pushed the hygienic envelope, they love veneers & whitened teeth;

it’s royalty that started this whole whiter-than-white movement. Aping kings
and queens the nouveau riche had barber-surgeons file down their teeth

then dab them with corrosive nitric which destroyed the enamel, the dentin
exposed, leading to decay! No more society appearances, no more pearly teeth.

About Cathryn Shea

Cathryn Shea is the author of three poetry chapbooks, most recently “It’s Raining Lullabies” (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and the micro chapbook “My Heart is a Salt Mirror Like Salar de Uyuni” (Rinky Dink Press, 2018). Her poetry has been nominated for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net 2017 and recently appears in Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. She resides in Fairfax, California. See and @cathy_shea on Twitter.