Garden bodies: A poem

Zainab Ali/File

I’m a redhead down there too. It’s coarse, curly and gleams golden and copper in the right light. Just the right length, overcrowded and protective. I thought it was beautiful until the world told me it wasn’t.

So I brought an axe to the forest.

No… more like the maple trees in my childhood backyard. Lifting the heavy silver, I bit into the skin

Time after time  

And time


Lifting and chopping. Scraping and sweating. I lifted my axe until there was nothing that remained but a tangled web of hair that littered the ground like fallen branches. Looking up I could see the sky.

Unblemished by the interference of foliage. Just the bleakest of blues.

Green is my favorite color. The way the sunlight hits it like the touch of warm skin to make it shine like the brightest thing you’ve ever seen.

The same effect that occurs with red.

But the ground is littered with a web of hair that looks like fallen branches.

My arms were heavy, but I packed up the leftovers and stuffed them into black plastic bags. Bags so black they lacked the comfort of night. Shoving something that once had been attached to my living body… something so frantically alive with blood and sinew and synapse and warmth… into a suffocation of black plastic.

Flushed down the toilet,

Filtered through drains.



Until nothing remained.

In the days ahead, my skin felt smooth, stinging. Cold. Bold in a way that made me afraid. By shaving, I felt pressured to have sex.

To be touched.

To be taken on my hands and knees.

Grow out the hair on your head, but shave the pussy. That way, men can pull back your hair while fucking you from behind.

Why else would one of the most personal and beautiful parts of my body be shorn off then to have men pry their fingers against bared skin.

And oh! How they pry.

Not only with the fingers but with the eyes.

Glances that feel like an unearthing.

Picking me apart until I am something. Not a someone but a something.

Chapter three of the “Consumer’s Manual”: How to tell the Quality of an Object.

  1. Efficiency
  2. Cost of production
  3. Aesthetic
  4. Consumer demand

Woman as object.

Man as object.

They as object.

Human as object.

A generation that relies on the first glance to decide someone is worthy of… is it… love?

Swipe left. Swipe right. Swipe left. Left. Left. Left.

Who is left? The ones who have shaved themselves bare.

Unraveling your hair like silk, you pull it from between your thighs like you would sweep cobwebs from the


Of your room.

All at once, your childhood fascination with spiders and the intricate patterns of their homes turns to hatred. You are told they will bite you, hurt you, crawl into your throat while you sleep.

So now when you see them, you scream. Watch while your hands crush them like grapes, and they quiver.

Spider wine. Drunk on fear.

Except it is not the spiders that bite, but the razor with which you scourge sensitive flesh. Don’t forget what really makes you bleed.

You’ve taken the walls from your home so that he will love you.

You’ve taken the quilted blanket your grandmother made off of your bed so that someone can lay you down on the sheets.

… so that you can fit in a bikini without hair pushing through.

… so that hair won’t fall out and into the shower drain where your fingers will have to frantically search for them against the wet tile.

… so that the bright shock of red will not make you stand out.

Why is it that women are told to change themselves?

Pull your hair backpraypull your skirt downpraydon’t speak too loudlypraydon’t speak at allpraypull your skirts up at nightpraypaint your faceprayraise the childrenpraybecome something        less than yourself.

Shave until you are bare.

Change until you are bare.

And then… when the hair starts to come crawling back against the cotton of your underwear itching and prickled like a cactus in a desert of skin that has been thirsting for a week for the rains to come…

Feel hideous. Unclean.

Lather, scrape, rinse, repeat.






A pause             before the storm.


A beating of a heart whose veins aren’t just pumping to keep me alive.

The beats match the pattern of the rain that is falling outside the bedroom window. An urge to put all of the pots and pans you own outside in the rain fills you like a flooding and allofasuddenyouareawakeandoutsidewiththepotsandpansandtheyare

Not only filled but overflowing.

I cannot tell if my cheeks are wet from the rain.

Women forget that they are beautiful in their naturalest, wildest form.

Don’t steal the gold from between your legs.

Beauty lies in the thick black hair under a woman’s arms. In the seaweed tangle of silken strands brushing against her legs. In the leaves of the maple trees that guard the door to the home between her thighs.

Following my feet to the garden, I lay among the mud. The tomato plants are singing, the beans are jazz pianists, and the green and red peppers are dancing a two-step. I am covering myself in this thick, wet mud.

But it is not a burial. It is an awakening.

Tomorrow I will wake up to the glowing, gilded sun, and the garden will be greener than I’ve ever seen it. A gilded age.

But tonight I will let myself grow.

Grow, nourish, love, repeat.




Contact Aliya Haas Blinman at [email protected].