The Femme in Question
There’s a planet near there painted in phosphorescent colors where debris breaks off in large chunks at first
She could understand the sentiment — offering to clasp a necklace behind a neck. Until her nails grew.
Her bedroom walls have pale blue scabs glistening in the paint from cotton-threaded backs leaning on them.
Streaks hiding in the dark, in certain angles of moonlight. Impressed by the sweaty backs of underpaid men and women who later went on to shed their corduroy skins and taste bitter beer or, better, to dream of bitter beer. Money-saving noses buried in blankets marinated in moth dust. If you place your palm on this wall, you can feel ribs. Its a cold wall without those backs against it. The shivering absence of progress.
At the foot of her bed, there’s a red and green headscarf that reeks of beeswax and shea butter. Its tied in a careful knot, hot against white sheets. Beeswax, shea butter and sweat. The scents stay trapped in the tight satin threading like General Zod stuck in the shard Phantom Zone. They stay trapped until they can earn the deaths for their door to the outside world. But if you hold the material to your nose and inhale, you can smell galaxies of baby hair and planets of heavy strands twisted by fingers and stars fizzling from scalp massages. And if you breathe in again you can smell headaches and aching palms from empty planets where there aren’t any hands at all.
At the corner of one often omitted galaxy, home to keratinized dark matter, you will find drifting debris of alopecia. There’s a planet near there painted in phosphorescent colors where debris breaks off in large chunks at first, then more and more. They fall out and they keep falling. Shedding until there’s nothing left. Just bald spots. Like missing jewels from a crown. Taking with it the shape of the planet and all the colors that help distract from the loss. The condition targets the parts of the planet with the warmest colors. Forcing the natural splendor of its crown to disassemble. Crumbling over the span of millennia with total certainty. Beginning at the conception of silk worms. Ending in the frustration of being seated for an hour with fingers tangled in bouquets of hair. Now, this planet has the circumference of a golf ball — if golf ball dimples were cavities. And as the planet orbits the closest star in its universe, light shoots through the hollows like a bad sieve. Bringing the entire universe to a standstill in mortification.
In a different galaxy, the hottest one in space, the planets are flat and suffering from heat damage. They orbit their closest star. Planets move backwards against the sky in retrograde. Torquing half their revolutions, tracing infinity. Its trajectory mapped out to resemble a child’s drawing of a cloud. And upon their death, they snap into two. Charred on one side and frozen on the other.
When satin is neglected – left under a pile of dirty clothes for longer than a couple of days – it grows stiff. The butter and wax that melted under the heat of suffocation, hardens in the threads. Making the fabric delicate. Unable to loop how it is supposed to. If worse comes to worse and the satin destabilizes, you plant the material in soil beneath a tree because it has served you well. And its composition must return to the earth that birthed it just for you. The same earth where silk cocoons spun by the bombyx mori are born. The same cocoons granted to the heads of womxn like her.
Her bedroom never smells like nothing: her shower smells of rice; her closet smells of Bint-El Sudan; the pillow smells of wax and butter; her countertop smells like acetate; her curtains smell of myrrh; her doorway smells of deodorant; her bed smells of sweat.
Photo by Isatou Elitesha Jallow. Twitter: elite_sha. Instagram: @elitesha_.