Poetry: Twenty One by Jazelle Jajeh
“Twenty One” by Jazelle Jajeh is a rich, associative exploration of self—of mirrors reaching into the “corridor of me.” The prose poem form holds so well the desire, the obsession, as each rubber-banding leap of conscious loops across the right hand margin and spills down the page.
There are mansions in the rocks. Thick red houses in the valleys. A village for rich Americans who came back. Our taxi driver has to be home by 8 before borders close, home to his wife who is my age. Wears a round nose ring like a coin broken to the angles of her face. What’s it like to be someone’s wife? How does she fold a man’s underwear, walk behind him in the street? I spend all my time looking in the mirror after a shower, my eyelashes clotted together, the rush of my cheeks. I swing my towel over one shoulder, wrap my hair in another. I sit nude against the sink and open the glass cabinet so there are four of me, and then more, hundreds. I look down into the corridor of me. Dark wet hair, my sky shallow beneath the bathroom fan. I wonder, when the driver asks her to make coffee, does she stay too long, watching her own face glint, flatten in the small metal pot, does she burn it, everytime? Or here, do girls know better. How to remove the insides from a zucchini, use them for another meal. How to wax with hot sugar before their wedding night. Somedays, in San Francisco, I walk home, watch the bus pass. I have nowhere to be. Imagine, someone twice my size, waiting at home with an empty plate. In the taxi, I watch her through the rearview mirror. Am I a child to her? Playing with my hair, flinching at checkpoints. She presses on her husband’s shoulder, the moon of her hand like a full sand dollar. My life: sea shell bits, muck lined crescents of seaweed. Particles of particles under my nails.
Jazelle Jajeh is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was raised by Palestinian immigrants. Her work is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner. In addition to writing, she paints, reads, hikes, or thinks about doing those things.