Perm Vacation

by Daniel Bailey

I imagine a new hair style
I break from life
I have many judgments of people
I keep them inside me
On my perm vacation
I am sitting on a free-floating glacier chunk
I am leaving Antarctica
An emperor penguin is giving me a perm
I understand that I will never again see the shore
I am locked into this, though the penguin could easily dive off the ice chunk and return to its family
The penguin finishes its job. I give my thanks. We say our goodbyes. I tip heartily.
The penguin dives off the ice chunk and starts swimming home
I wait, perfectly permed, for the ice to melt
And it does melt
I sit, as long as I can, on the wooden chair painted with typical North American flowers: daisies, tulips, daffodils, etc.
I sink
It is cold, but it is cool
There are leopard seals
There are fish I can’t identify
There is a school of used condoms
I keep sinking
I sink through the condoms, taking them with me
They are filled with my death children
I am their mother
I reach the bottom of the ocean
My death children are now in kindergarten
I have elected to home school
God, they are so smart
They’ve developed sophisticated, sub-Antarctican accents
I can’t believe I must leave them soon
I gather them in my bottle
To speak to them one last time
“My beautiful children
You must know
Know that I love you
And that the world, at best, is not a world
It is a constellation at war with itself
We are all the ammunition
At least that’s what I was raised to believe
But I did not raise you to believe this
I did not raise you to believe anything
Pure experience is enough
The world looks at you without judgment
You look at the world the same way
Now go
Move slowly through being
Be as slow as possible
Make the concept of time envious of your creep
I am done”
And like that I am finished
With my last act, I release my children from the bottle
They float outward, dispersing
They will evolve to meet this world at its beauty
My body will be found centuries later by merpeople
They will marvel at my specimen
My body will be placed in the Hair Museum
The tale of my descent will become a popular tidal zone novel
Its title: Immaculate Perm

Daniel Bailey wrote The Drunk Sonnets and Gather Me. He is a former ice cream scooper, currently living in Athens, Georgia.

Photograph: Daniel Bailey