“Meet Me at Epsilon Eridani,” “Cephalophore” & “Disembodied”
by Sheila Dong
Meet Me at Epsilon Eridani
In the 1980s, a group of ballerinas put sensors in their vaginas that picked up the sound of their walls
contracting, as well as their voices and heartbeats. They gave the recordings to artist Joe Davis, who used
software to translate the contractions into audible frequencies and promised to launch the sounds into
space. In a test run, he transmitted the recordings to four nearby star systems before an Air Force colonel
showed up at his door and shut the project down. But there was no taking back the four broadcasts already
made. In 1996, a vaginal recording reached the Epsilon Eridani star system. In 1998, another arrived in
the Tau Ceti system.
You read this and can hardly imagine a more beautiful name than Epsilon Eridani for a place your vagina
sounds could end up. A record of your close-lipped joy, arrowing through the void even after you cease
being. You dream of an alien civilization picking up the sounds in their shining dishes and poring them
over, letting their best cryptographic minds take a crack at them. Meanwhile, some creature not so
different from you, earbuds in, listens to your rhythms as they try to sleep. The quickening of their breath
that they can’t explain. The feeling that comes over you both. The feeling that goes on and on through the
whole of existence.
Medieval painters of beheaded saints faced a conundrum: where to put the halo? Behind the stump of the
neck or the detached head? When the body is separated from itself, where does the holiness default to?
What would you prioritize: mind or wound? Jetsam or empty pedestal? In their tableaux, the saints look
so calm, carrying their heads in the crooks of their elbows. Don’t talk to me or my son ever again.Thanks. Is the head the son, or is the body? Who birthed whom? The angels will not say, though they bear
witness with polite concern, as one critic puts it. In the paintings, some artists placed the halo behind the
severed head, though some opted for the neck, and a few for both. Just covering their bases, or maybe
violence confers twice the sacredness. In one double-halo depiction by Léon Bonnat, the head halo looks
different from the neck halo: a hard-edged circle vs. a burst of light with inconsequential borders. The
absence something leaves is radiant too. Sometimes it’s even brighter than what was lost.
In the lighthouse hangs a painting made from human hair, or perhaps more accurately, a hairing. Someone
centuries back must have grown their hair long, then cut it off at a stroke, again and again, to gather
enough for this blonde seascape. Even now, the hair almost blooms against the bounds of the frame. I
grew from a person, it seems to hiss. I’ll always be half-alive. Meanwhile, artist Joe Coleman makes a
self-portrait from his own skin, hair, blood, piss, and semen. You view it in high-res because why not
punish yourself? Sure enough, peeled-off swaths of skin form the skin of the portrait, splashes of
coagulated blood the eyes. Odd how ordinary it is to look at a human face vs. how you cringe at the
portrait. They’re both made of the same materials. Except we don’t like the body detached from the body.
See: saliva in the mouth, a given. Saliva in a water glass, repulsive. It’s like the fear of ghosts. If you
leave, stay gone, we beg of our parts. The artist makes a note under his self-portrait: whereabouts
unknown (stolen from exhibition).
Sheila Dong is a nonbinary Chinese-American writer living in the desert. A 2021 Best of the Net nominee and alum of Oregon State University’s MFA program, they have been or soon will be published in Bat City Review, Radar, SOFTBLOW, and Heavy Feather Review, among other places. Their 1st chapbook Moon Crumbs debuted with Bottlecap Press in 2019. Their 2nd chapbook Swan as a Verb will be out in 2022 from dancing girl press. Read more at sheiladong.carrd.co.
Jessica Boudreaux is a music producer, songwriter and visual artist from Louisiana, currently based in Portland, Oregon. She produces pop music under her own name and has toured and released music with her rock band Summer Cannibals over the last 10 years. She also owns and operates a recording studio in Portland called Pet Club. Follow her on Twitter @scannibalsband or on Instagram @summercannibals.