none of us wanted to leave
on the way to salvation
three planets to the left
a century of light years ago
— Audre Lorde
Her mouth sulks sideways like a Blobfish dying on a dock or in a museum somewhere. Time dribbles down the fat of her lips like brown sugared molasses and I can smell the rancid syrup from where I’m sitting. They were all like this, I think to myself as I walk over to wipe the minute laden spit sliding down her mouth.
“Please close the mouth. Time is getting all over the room.”
She grunts and I continue talking to distract myself from the scaly flakes dropping from her skin, “This oxygen. It just completely floods the peoples’ digestive system and wreaks damage as it comes out from every pore in the body. But our Amazientists…” I pause– she does not know Amazientists– “…our researchers found that oxygen is not actually good for the species.”
She looks at me with those sunken eyes as her mouth moves around like a flapping open hole, “What are you talking about?”
Even though she smells like decay, I like this about her. She asks and tries to listen, even if she does not understand. I reply, “Oxygen. It is not actually good for humans. Human scientists thought it was needed to survive but it was killing the people.”
“But how can something kill us if we cannot live without it?”
“If oxygen will not kill the person, that type of thinking will! We suppose it cannot be helped. It is the way the creature is wired to think. But let us ask, isn’t it funny that human myths speak of people-like creatures that human archeologists could not find? Ghost-men and giants? Even the peoples’ most recent myth, Christianity, spoke of men living until 600. But we Nilotes have learned that oxygen let the people live to about 50 years old at most. Of course, the people mixed chemicals to prolong the process but we wonder if it did the people any good. The peoples’ bones began to shrink and atrophy, the brain started short-wiring, the organs shut down. The body wanted to go, but the people refused.”
She sighs and I remember the question she asked, “Anyway—oxygen was killing the people.” I look at her skin, the mammalian mucous secretions encrusted in her eyes, her nose, her mouth. She looks at her skin too, and says, “Still is I guess.”
Nilotes’ skin is so black it looks wet. Our black is the color of a darkness that sighs like creaky shoes and smells like dusky resurrection. Her skin is reptilian thin and hard. I say, “Probably when the people left the previous planet the people didn’t need oxygen. But when the people landed on earth the people needed new myths to make sense of everything. It is understandable. Even the peoples’ science myth is quite funny. So interesting!”
Her Blobfish mouth sulks downward and I think her lips may turn grey like her skin does when she stops eating. I wonder if the edges of her lips can touch the bed because they seem to just keep falling more and more downwards.
“I suppose that’s what we get,” she says, “for thinking Earth was ours anyway.” Her words come out like jagged glass and I do not know if she is trying to cut me.
Is this what the humans called anguish? I feel it deep inside and I want to peel my slicked skin and flake in desperation. Was this why Job tore his robe? This anguish, so reckless and human.
How else could these people sink an entire planet?
“The peoples’ science was bad mathematics. The idea that matter is neither created nor destroyed, and yet, the Earth is slowly sinking through Galaxy NX21. The weight of the unrisen is too heavy. The peoples’ tossed bodies aboard slavery ships, atomic bombs, mass graves….the bodies…all those bodies.” I look at her but she cannot hear. Her breathing is heavy and I sigh to push this cutting feeling out of me. “The bodies weigh something…”
She looks at me as though I know her name. If I could, I would have smiled back. I would have tugged my lips upwards like she does with her fat Blobfish lips.
I think, these humans are not so bad, as I look at her body, her skeleton an emaciated kiosk of bones. And she fell then. Her body tumbling to the floor like the weight of a sinking earth.
Melissa Kiguwa is a poet and a radical feminist. Her work is rooted in acknowledging and giving praise to diverse afro-experiences. Her work focuses on imperialism, migration, sexuality, spirituality, and trauma. In her work she re-imagines liberation, new horizons, and inter-generational legacy building. She is currently working on her postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her debut collection of poetry, Reveries of Longing, can be purchased at http://www.melissakiguwa.com