conditioner

& couldn’t we be
softer? flyaways tamed,
cowlicks domesticated, &
all the scallops filed
away. we could make this world

more than His dollhouse,
remind our minted, plasticky
selves of our own
fragility – the shredding
of a nail, temporariness
of skin, disobedience
inherited
in the curl of our hair:

rebel. i go
to the salon to be
mutinous, palms
sweating under hairdresser’s cape.
i come to be beautiful
for my female gaze, eyes seaming
gently shut, as janice

kneads my shoulders. her tagalog rattling
above my scalp, knocking
with anna’s at reception, like a thousand
little cowrie shells. maryam dips

mulchy dyed paintbrush
into a mother’s roots, her arabic basting
the hairdryer’s din. two french women toast
their hands under
hot igloos calcifying
color on their hands quoi,
c’est magnifique, look

how pretty we
arm ourselves. & nobody
but us can ever know
how it feels: “for women only”

once, you set us
apart so we kept
making rooms for ourselves, steaming &
polishing our own kilns,
where we come under
fire, but only for the pleasure
of ourselves. see, the swing

of my smoking mouth, my smooth
jazz hair – this is all mine,
ours, this space where we lacquer
& buff all the edges
you sink in our silkened surfaces: yes,
we’re the paper you toss
after glossing upon, with
all the errors of your hands.

 

 

Image by Ciu Xiuwen, documentary still from “Ladies Room”, 2000