I paint my fingernails black naively, no real sense of what I’m doing. WikiHow shows me how later, but I am yet to acquire the patience needed to let them properly dry.

They look bad. I walk down to the local shop for nail polish remover and cotton pads. Polish removed, black stains still linger at the edges. I am left with dirty-looking nails, now even more masculine than before.

I let my nails grow and, a week later, try again. This time I am more successful. It is stirring. The results are both aesthetically pleasing and practical. To achieve the former, I am staving off a lifelong nail-biting habit, which feels like a profound personal achievement. I realise that I have to let myself grow.

I head out for a coffee before meeting a friend and roll a cigarette under cover from light rain. I deposit a similarly light sprinkling of tobacco over the leaves of the open book I am reading: After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz.

“Sappho writes of aithussomenon, the bright trembling of leaves in the moment of anticipation.”

I brush the brown strands to the rain-kissed ground and leave more remnants of self in the process: four faint trails of what looks like black charcoal; the already carbonised tails of finger-comets. I am newly aware of my nails, occupying the outer edges of the back of my hand.

“A poet is always living in kletic time, whatever her century. She is calling out, she is waiting. She lies down in the shade of the future and dowses among its roots.”

I am waiting for my nails to grow.

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