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
 
Goodbye

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

Photograph: Daniel Bailey