Fingernails

I held a sleeping baby at church.
Her hands lay quiet on her chest, finger nails
nearly translucent and thin as velum;
she is new and has not yet begun to die.
Grandaddy, who is 99,
whose finger nails are thick and hard as death approaches him,
has hands that are large and heavy boned,
laying quiet like garden tools in winter,
though once he built fences, repaired engines, planted watermelons, tended turkeys and bees, raised houses and children.
Nails are dead cells;
isn’t that what I learned in school?
His cells are dying fast, piling up, and his passing is near
like the kiss I press to his cheek
before I leave his room.

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