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I held her hand cupped within mine,
her brown fingers curled in permanent rest
as I applied a fresh coat of enamel to her nails.

I did not know the frail woman in the casket,
though I wrapped her body in the fine sari 
her family brought, pulled silver bangles 

onto her wrists and brushed her hair. And I held 
her cool hands in mine as I painted her nails, 
wondering when her skin had last been touched,

in life and without worry. And I thought of the long 
viral months when my skin too was untouchable
and pressed the warmth of my palm into hers.

Ann E. Wallace, a poet and essayist from Jersey City, New Jersey, is author of the poetry collection Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag). She has previously published work in Halfway Down the Stairs, as well as in Huffington Post, Crack the Spine, Riggwelter, Snapdragon and other journals. She is online at and on Twitter @annwlace409.

© 2021, Ann E. Wallace

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