by Jennifer L. Collins  NailsYou used to paint your nails,
fluttering them in the air
around us as if they were mosquitos
to dart and sting
their color along clothing
or my cheek,
threatening feminine touch
while drying on makeshift wind.I’d be watching, waiting
for the tell-tale tap of your nails
along each other and then
elsewhere, proving dryness by virtue
of the fact that no color ran—
as if the test would disappear
from fabric or skin
if you were wrong.You used to paint your nails
as if to draw my attention to your ends,
to your tips and lines and the
colors of your wants,
red or brick, solid or shining…
metallic or built
to withstand a conservative gaze.You used to paint your nails
as if my gaze mattered,
as if you wanted my eyes on you
in moments of coloring,
the flirtation of adornment
something you played with and plied
over our afternoons,
every so often,
as if I couldn’t watch.I’d be watching, waiting,
when you used to paint your nails,
as I watch now in case you begin
again to play my attentions
along your lines, along your colors to be
so that I might stay my gaze
on yours, and lead elsewhere.Until now, when I say you used to paint your nails
and I wonder where those colors went,
where your brushes lie now,
and whether I could ever turn away
again if you began again
to paint yourself while I watched,
flirting in my gaze with fluttering hands
and teasing darts of fingers
that never stayed my gaze for long,
though my mind won’t turn from them now
as I’m watching, waiting,
for used-to-be colors to come
calling, intentions fluttering
and flirting with want, to stay my gaze,
wanting and waiting
on your painted nails
to dry.    Muscle DreamsThe muscle memory of the dream pulls,
stretching and stratifying
my thoughts to find acceptance
for what it is, to find its place
and hold my mind
still, occupied
in its thrall and waiting
for the next show.Malignant, such a dream
as it is tears away at my present
until again my heart is held
open and wanting
for what it offers, unreal,
as tempting as marijuana
to a fourteen year old who’s never
tasted smoke
and has no one
watching.Back again, felt again,
the dream sloths my eyelids
shut against any other
potential and cries its own ending,
wanting my want
and waiting
to be held as it holds me
against it,
breathing heavy
and untested,
its skin the very particles
of mine,
and salivating
for the same
control.    Cold HandsWe shut the windows, but our hands are still cold.
This is one of those nights where comfort can’t be easily found—
not with the winds screaming along the street
and such a chill in the air that I’m not so sure we shouldn’t
turn on the heat, July or otherwise.Electricity bill be damned, blankets be damned,
what should be happening be damned.
It’s hard to get warm tonight,
and harder to remember that this will pass.In sweatshirts and frayed jeans,
we spill ourselves into wine and television,
creature comforts piled onto cold air and tired eyes
as if to numb our minds from complaint.I feel the window, the cold against my skin,
and wonder at how spoiled we’ve become,
hiding from even this weather
in the middle of the summer,
stilled into luxury and poisoning our blood
as if it means nothing,
or everything.We’ve shut the windows, locked the doors,
and offered kisses and flirtations,
our hands still cold,
and now we turn off the lights, room by room,
before burrowing beneath chilled blankets
and pretending our way toward sleep.
This is our luxury, with our large bed and our cold hands
and our locked windows and our bodies set apart
while together, as if safe.This is our luxury, and perhaps it’s not the electronic heat
that matters now, but the warmth that still
isn’t felt, or even dreamed.    After TimeThe proof had once been
heavy and deep in her bones.
More glistening than any jewel,
more clear than arithmetic
made simple for children.
The proof had once been
there, ruling and real.Was there a stage where
it faded from the foreground,
where the math grew more complex,
the jewel tarnished,
the bones more brittle,
the proof fading, but there?
Or had there been a moment missed?
Like that point in a Physics class
where students realize:
what we thought was real
is wrong,
what was simple
is something else
we only didn’t know enough
to see.Or perhaps there was no epiphany to be seen,
to be recognized as damning
anything at all.
Maybe it all had simply suddenly been gone,
charred beyond recognition into doubt,
its memory blurred
and ashen, its shadow
circling her finger
as she searched for what one lay
beneath the ring, in her bones,
proving love in more
than sight,
more than society,
where it could be felt
once upon a
time.     Nests in CornersGripping three fingers of my left hand,
my son drags me forward to a corner of our yard.He moves aside dry brush, leaves, dirt that’s been
fueling his little-boy musings for weeks, I’d bet,
and he gestures gently with a stick
to a now unhidden nest of snakes’ eggs,
excited and unafraid.His eyes are as wide and oval as the moist ovals
in front of us, almost hissing
with possibility
and with what another mother
(so different from myself)
has hidden away for our quiet findings.His chatter, my fear, our sight:
how to tell him that we can’t tell whether
these eggs will bring on little devils or god-sends
for the garden, for guarding–
how to tell him that what we see and what he wants
is not something to return to—
how to tell him that I am frightened and—
that, upon hatching,
the young are far more dangerous
than the grown.   About the Author: Jennifer Collins is a tattooed poet and animal lover who grew up in Virginia and has recently relocated to Cape Coral, FL., where she and her husband have four rescues – one neurotic hound, and three very spoiled cats.  Her poetry has been published in various journals and nominated for a Pushcart by Puerto Del Sol, and she spends her summers as an instructor of creative writing and drama at the Cardigan Mountain School.  Her first chapbook, Oil Slick Dreams, is available for sale from Finishing Line Press.