Hair, Lion & Mountain
By Manisha Anjali
With artwork by Aaron Billings
PART 1: HAIR
At first the flowers start to move. And the Golliwogs they sway from side to side. The stripes on their pants, they zigzag, and their feet, they tap tap. And her long white hair it grows down to her old feet. And it grows, across the forest floor, sweeping up twigs, berries and dragonflies. And it grows until there is no more vine and fern, just hair and hair. She walks groovy and she walks slow, with her thousand year old feet tripping over her hair and mind. In the smoky purple sky above, thousands of five-eyed blue karp swim.
And they ask, Who are the mystics of the First World?
Old Girl shakes her long white hair, bares her gold teeth and shouts at the sky, ‘What a question to ask / when you are picking glass shards from broken pipes out of your clouds! Don’t ask me fish! I just want to brush my long white hair.’
The karp laughed and swam around stars and asked her again, Who are the mystics of the First World?
‘Don’t ask me fish! Don’t ask me fish! Ask the river / does the river know?’
The karp go ‘round and ‘round the merry-go-stars. They shimmy into the brown river and shoot back up to milky way veins. And then the Golliwogs they pop, like frill-neck lizards. Her hair grows and grows until it fills the universe, for it has a life of its own. And the blue karp sing again
Old Girl, we are just like you.
We sleep on a mattress on the floor too.
(Yes, soon she would pick up her all hair and flee to her tiny home and pass out on the cold wooden floor where the night insects lived. They crawled across her face in the dark as she slept, up the baby blue walls and into kitchen sink and veins, in between floorboards and thighs and secret nooks that only night insects know about. Yes, she would think long and hard about the black roach growing in her belly. Its wings beating like a fever, its little legs bending and twisting and its silent hissing through its furry frothy mouth. This little sea monkey, this little roach. Yes, she would feel ravaged by waters and wants that filled her hollows when she was alone. She would toss and turn and touch her temples when they hurt, scratch behind her ear when it itched, kick into the night to ward off the demons. Yes, she would wake wet in blood. Yes, the night insect would hum in her belly as the blood would run down her legs and onto the cold wooden floor. The blue karp already know.)
PART 2: LION
It was the big daddy Lion from the March 1966 issue of National Geographic. Before he was in the magazine slung over the back of his circus trainer as a crowd of sadists looked on, he sat by the river under the smoky purple sun, watching the brown water flow fast and slow, letting his mane grow.
Old Girl wants to trade. And to the Lion she sings, ‘Build me a boat and I will give you my 2two eyes/ in a flaxx basket/ a basket of eyes. You can put them on like glasses / rewind to see what I’ve seen / make this boat with your two hands. Two eyes for a boat / the most precious thing I have Lion sir / I will sail away from purple skies & into the First World brushing my long white hair’.
If you don’t have eyes, how will you find your children?
‘Lion sir / I don’t need eyes to find my children / we are bound by this here cord / you can’t see it Lion sir / but we are bound / soon I will sit in my moon bungalow and pull this cord & all my children will appear / for they are with me always & forever.’
I suppose you won’t need eyes when you are a robot.
The Lion ate Old Girl’s eyes. And she sailed away into the First World brushing her long white hair.
PART 3: MOUNTAIN
All the dead have left the First World.
Old Girl climbs a mountain in dungarees / Easy E’s. In her old hands she holds a wooden box containing the songs of the dead. Her mind is naked. Her heart is a stone. The blind woman sings to the dead as she stands atop the Pyramid on one leg. She puts a two dollar coin into the Navajo Dream Magic pokie machine to try and wake the mystics. She tries to send them telegrams with her mind.
‘Wake up / wake up / rent me a bungalow on the moon / let me tug at my cords / let me meet my children for the first time.’
Insert another gold coin.
‘Who is multidimensional and who is Truth? Did I climb a mountain or did a mountain climb me?’
Old Girl inserts her last two dollar coin.
‘Wake up / wake up / hear the songs of the dead / rent me a moon bungalow / let me meet my children for the first time.’
There was no response, not from the earth and not from the sky.
She sat on the mountain and brushed her long white hair. Around her were dancing flowers and Golliwogs and five-eyed blue karp that she could no longer see. There are no mystics of the First World. She knew, for she was as old as time.
Manisha Anjali is a poet and short fiction writer based in Melbourne. She has been published in Flapperhouse, Seizure, Mascara Literary Review and Blackmail Press. She is the Opportunities & Events Editor at LEAP+, the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators magazine.
Aaron Billings is a human beanbag who likes Project Runway and whole heartedly believes sprinkling chia seeds on any meal makes it healthy. He has been published in The Lifted Brow, Voiceworks, Canary Press and Going Down Swinging to mention a few impressive situations.