Defence and Defiance

From Kerala to Korea

The poem is about chores and the treatment of fingernails and it offers a specifically woman's perspective in its conclusion. "I Can't Grow My Nails" by Vijila translated by Lekshmy Rajeev published in The Oxford India Anthology of Malayalam Dalit Writing.

Do maintain the grown nail of at least one finger
like an iron nail
to pierce those
venomous fingers
that dare touch your body.

Complying with the poet's words,
there remains,
a nail half-broken,
to scratch, to rend.
Although the next two are not anchored in defence against violence targeting women, they too treat fingernail as weapon. They however do not bring us along an excursion of the chores that wear and tear (to end with defence); both begin with the parentage of claws.

Neither bone nor skin nor food,
fingernails are tools we mouth,

deploy, and decorate. None
of us is ever so civilized—

whatever civilized means-
that we won’t, when

need be, start to claw,
scrape, dig

from Hans Ostrom "Fingernails"
Fingernails are relentless. They are claws
Practicing for the rasp and the attack.

from "Fingernails" by Thomas W. Shapcott
Manicure Transport to Korea
The woman across from me looks so familiar,
but when I turn, her look glances off. At the last
subway stop we rise. I know her, she gives manicures


Choi Don Mee writes that some girls
in that country crush petals on their nails, at each tip
red flowers unfold. Yi Yon-ju writes that some women
there, as here, dream of blades, knives, a bowl of blood.

"Giving a Manicure" Minnie Bruce Pratt in The Dirt She Ate
Some selections from Yi's A Night Market Where There Are Prostitutes (Maeumyno ka ittnun pam ui sijang, 1991) are to be found in Anxiety of words : contemporary poetry by Korean women translated by Don Mee Choi. And yes there are mentions of fingernails.

And so for day 1230