Nail Artist – by Maggie Butt


Masked like bandits, surgeons, or Chinese
commuters to evade the vapours, dusts and mists,
the ethyls, methyls, butyls poisoning our air.

We make muffled small-talk, ever smaller and smaller
while clients’ fingers spread under magnifying glass
huge as hands in a child’s painting.

Then I am miniaturist, Hilliard and Holbein;
each nail’s a canvas for op art, Bridget Riley,
neons, tribals, foils and stripes. Pop-arrazi Pose.

When I look up, Brunelleschi invents perspective,
these fingers join to a figure which stretches,
stands and walks from my here into distance.

Outside the salon window, evening: Midnite Moonlight
Sky High, Out All Nite, slashed through with Confident Coral
Sweet Sixteen and Some Like It Hot. Sunset world.

I draw my eyes back in and down, bending
my head like a nun. Recite my rosary:
Foxy Roxy, Guilty Pleasures, Standing Ovation.




Maggie Butt has published five poetry collections and a novel. Her most recent poetry collection is Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine 2015). She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Middlesex University where she’s taught Creative Writing since 1990. Previously, she was a journalist and BBC TV documentary producer. Her poems have escaped the page into choreography, a geo-locative mobile phone app, and live musical accompaniment.