Cutting Toenails

September 1, 2008

After I slippedmy finger inside and feltdeath’s rough stoneI knew I should grantthe old man’s wish:“Just cut my toenails.”Down on my kneesI admired them, thickas a silver dollar,long and curved asthe shofar, the ram’s hornJews blow on judgment day.And I was dressed in whitelike Yeshua, Jesus, my favoriteJew, a healer I knewwould have been downon his knees with me,worshipping the beautyof an old man’s body.

After I slipped


my finger inside and felt
death’s rough stone
I knew I should grant
the old man’s wish:
“Just cut my toenails.”
Down on my knees
I admired them, thick
as a silver dollar,
long and curved as
the shofar, the ram’s horn
Jews blow on judgment day.
And I was dressed in white
like Yeshua, Jesus, my favorite
Jew, a healer I knew
would have been down
on his knees with me,
worshipping the beauty
of an old man’s body.


I filled a vessel
with warm water,
soaked the nails soft,
washed the cracked
and calloused flesh,
and with my surgical steel
scissors cut sharp brown
crescents, like slivers
of a harvest moon,
imagining Yeshua,
what he atoned for
on Yom Kippur,
what pain he felt
for people he had not healed,
the expression in his eyes
when he heard the shofar’s song
flying toward heaven.