Sophia Naz is a bilingual poet, essayist, author, editor and translator. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, in 2016 for creative nonfiction and in 2018 for poetry. Her work features in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Poetry International Rotterdam, The Adirondack Review, The Wire, Chicago Quarterly Review, Blaze Vox, Scroll, The Daily O, Cafe Dissensus, Guftugu, Pratik, Gallerie International, Coldnoon, VAYAVYA, The Bangalore Review, Madras Courier, etc. Her poetry collections are Peripheries (2015), Pointillism (2017) and Date Palms (2017). Shehnaz, a biography of her mother published from Penguin Random House in November 2019. Her site is SophiaNaz.com
When it smashed in a slammed car door she shed a universe of sound. The bed bled in fluid silence. Blood turned black before the white-coated sanguine said pins and needles baby! Broach the subject already.
To resist a piercing, refusing to capsize a frozen sea of hemoglobin, its plankton of platelets and plasma capsuled in milk-glass stillness. Underneath an icy lake blood red as algae blooms, paralyzing industry. Nothing doing. Thumb your blackened rose as rorschach test, nature of tether.
In time the nail lifts up from the nail bed, stunted crustacean raising a claw as if questioning the miscarriage of trajectories. Dear Hit or Miss did you know that crust comes from kreus, Proto Indo European for anything that begins to harden or freeze, or that the acronym for said origin is PIE which brings us back full circle to crust? Everything depends on dark matter which matters only because it alters the velocity of objects moving through it.
Dug into flesh with a savage tenacity, feral as a meathook, the jagged nail is a gnawing bipolarity, both earth and air, a wing of Lilith, a Kinnari, bird-woman in microcosm. Perhaps this is the original meaning of familiar, pain as a totemic animal, a prehistoric relic perched on her wrist.
By the seventh week she has gone through three hundred and twenty four bandaids, testimony to nail as tail of leviathan catching on any random object and ripping her cuticle. She wonders if monsters were created to give form to inchoate suffering. Many secrets have bitten the nail. Both skin and earth release their confessions under duress. The memory that resists and the memory that propels. Time is the elastic born out of this.
It is a daily autopsy, this obsession with the miniature delta of blue blackness, blood-resin sticking to the nail underside, trapped in it like a ship in a bottle. There are pilgrims in Medina right now, suffering from heat stroke under the awning of such an ill thought canopy. Each night after the half-hearted sterilization of a fat needle she pokes at blood now crud, wincing as the eye of the needle grazes raw thumb ground.
If the heaviest organ of the body is the envelope keeping the mess of our insides from spilling everywhere on the journey, then the thumbnail is a kind of milestone. A measure of the grave yardage of life. In the tactile theater of cinema verité, the thumbnail is a frame of film, flammable as any painted sheen of celluloid, while behind the scenes whorls of swollen underbelly toil on, invisible emblems of everything that is not book-knowledge. This is the light and the dark of the thumbnail, its manicured privilege, its drowned anchor.
In the trailer where she has been living since a surreal snow of ash felled everything in one unclean sweep, three small windows offer up a daily view of the burned hillside which the valiant stubble of November grass fails to cover. Home is also a thumbnail now, a file she must revisit in order to complete the catalog of loss. The woman she inhabits has resisted doing this, unanswered voicemails on her cell from the lawyer pile up like tree rings. If language is skin the words recalcitrant and cartilage rise up as ridges in an endless rosary of circular days.
At nine weeks, the gestation of the new nail is finally more than a crescent moon. She has clipped the wing of the old nail until it is no more than the beak of an emu. Soon to be extinct, like the wounded bone of a lost continent.
Towards the end the woman she inhabits goes at the nail with a tender cannibal lust, biting at it like a cat catches her kittens, by the scruff of their necks. The new nail is three quarters of the way in, eerily synchronous with the risen moon, red tinged from the smoke of wildfires raging north and south. Fire’s mouth the ultimate cannibal, sparing nothing and no one. Paradise has been lost, leaving nothing but the poisoned pints of thumbnails.
What is a nail compared to the pangs of birth? The last breath of death? A sadhu sleeps on a bed of nails, and what if one head holds a mushroom cloud and another dominoes of daisy chains? In the dream she and all seven billion are swaying in a cosmic sea, all filaments of the Pale Blue Dot called Gaia, murmuring Endling, Endling, Endling.