By Amrit Phull

The following is a written in response to Leila Plouffe's negotiations between skin, fabric, and the feminine in her sculpture work, photographed by Sean Trayner for The Site Magazine V:38 Feminisms

This city belongs to ghosts, to murderers, to sleepwalkers. Where are you, in what bed, in what dream?
— Marguerite Yourcenar, Fires

i. G, I woke up with my fingers knotted in your hair. At dawn, your eyes catch rays the sun is too shy to show in full. What a strange beast we make in the morning: this pyre of satisfied organs and limbs gently rising, falling. While we slept, the world blew up our phones with holiday sales, invitations, petition requests, hydro bills. We wake, you blaze. I’ll come back and spend December veiled behind these sheets.


ii. The Spotify Discover playlist is singing prophecies to me from the next room. She gets dressed up like a pillow / so she's always in bed. But I want to live a life that is fruitful. That is intense.


iii. Women, strangers, sit in twos on the streetcar, adorned in the textures of their morning rituals. Tied together by knits, weaves, braids, we lift our eyes from winged lines of kohl and watch ourselves being looked at. Our thumbs and fingers stroke the glass of our phones. Mine quivers with the words "MECH. ENGINEER MEETING" winking at me from inside the little blue box on my screen. Sitting across from a man to talk about his missteps is a practice. Quit blowing your hot air through my windows.


iv. But he refuses to meet with a woman alone, a woman unsupervised. My male colleagues spit heat in disbelief. Sometimes you raise your voice only to hear the futility of your own breath. So I walk into the meeting room behind a man. I wear him like a cloak.


v. I speak to the list of changes: inconsistent duct widths, redundant RTU's, absent vertical chases. It is an utterly banal and benign conversation, but the seed of doubt planted in my throat by the voice on the other line begins to blossom—my voice cracks. Sometimes I sound like gravel, sometimes I sound like coffee and cream, Nina Simone once said. And she wore a glorious knot of jewel-toned cotton upon her crown when she said it. Brown skin does not blush easily.


vi. Walk into an air conditioned office in the middle of July and you'll find the women under heaps of the scarves, sweaters, and blankets they've accumulated in the largest drawer of their filing cabinet, with one arm reluctantly extended towards a mouse and the other on a keyboard. I open a tab on Chrome.


vii. Search results: Why women always complain it's cold in the office; Office air conditioning IS cold for women; Why women secretly turn up the heating. Studies have shown that a woman's extremities are three degrees colder than a man's. The rhyme to our shared discomfort goes PMV (predicted mean vote) = [0.303e-0.036M + 0.028]{(M – W) – 3.96E-8ƒcl[(tcl + 273)4 – (tr + 273)4] – ƒclhc(tcl – ta) – 3.05[5.73 – 0.007(M – W) – pa] – 0.42[(M – W) – 58.15] – 0.0173M(5.87 – pa) – 0.0014M(34 – ta)}. Developed in the 1970s by Ole Fanger as a standard for heating and cooling spaces, this score of letters, numbers, and symbols was composed for a hypothetical 40-year-old man weighing approximately 154 pounds. Why do we trust systems that were never designed for us? How often are women pinned three or more degrees behind someone befitting this description? It feels unwise to contemplate this statement any further. I pull the shawl further above the cold tip of my nose and navigate to my inbox. Attn: Mr. Phull,



viii. One afternoon in 2013, somewhere on the Eastern James Bay coast, north of Wemindji. I limp into George Kudlu’s cabin, paralyzed by the cold. Noticing, he takes my feet into his hands and rubs life back into them by the stove. Your boots are too tight, the blood wasn't flowing—this must feel painful. This tenderness from an Inuit Elder who once spent a week marooned on an Arctic ice float when he was eight years old, alone. I do not know the tragedy you have seen but I can sometimes imagine. Take these socks.   


ix. During my lunches I’ve been re-reading Frankenstein.  I’m at the part when Victor partially makes the female monster and then destroys her. Mary Shelley claimed to have seen the story in a dream before writing the book. But I imagine her inspiration came from the feminine predicament of being.


x. When T leaves the office I squeeze her goodbye and comb my fingers through her jacket of coyote. Her coverings are interchangeably her identity, community and family: bones, hides, and beads from out west. All this woman contained by a single pelt. We work beneath the arches of a converted church and sometimes it feels like a triumph, other times, the opposite.


xi. C, I loved you for your simple arrangement of muscle and bone, big or small. I hibernated under the heavy blanket of your flesh and emerged in the Spring.


xii. You learned to wander within silk roads, subas, chananis, eruvs, sukkots. Let the branches colour the pallor of your skin. You would say I sounded “more Indian” whenever you upset me but I was speechless. No one asks you to declare your whiteness. Maybe you were noticing the voices of my ancestors crawling up my throat, trying to declare it for you.


xiii. I heard that same voice coming from another body of the same colour, so I followed it across cities. He spends his time behind a lens except when he’s with me. Before we made love, he pointed his index finger and signed his name across my thigh: LACE,


xiii. LINEN, SILK, WOOL, read the labels of neatly arranged and pressed designer fabrics for window coverings, upholstery, wall finishes, et caetera, et caetera. Client’s budget is $8,500 and the sales associate has mentioned “luxury” three times within the first 60 seconds of our conversation. Tell me about your most recent product launches? Upcoming trends?


xiv. 1994, in a clothing factory in northern England. My Nani-ji is seated, focused on the machine in front of her. At five years old, I remember the scene in dramatic chiaroscuro: rolls of cotton and polyester, a concrete floor, and halogen bulbs catching the shapes of women, makers at work. The silver linings of their noses, cheekbones, and fly-aways.


xv. The associate shows me chenille weaves in the “colour-non-colour” line featuring de-saturated hues of oyster and sand. In silk, there are options of deep russet, duck egg blue, medallion yellow, or mineral green.


xvi. My Nani has these six shades woven into a single kameez, which she pulls over her head before leaving for the factory. One colour for each language she speaks.



This piece was written from between two sheets on the top bunk of a sleeper train travelling from Mumbai to New Delhi.



Amrit Phull is one of The Site Magazine’s contributing editors and an architectural designer and writer based in Toronto. Her previous work in Eastern James Bay Cree Territory informs her current research on empathic design and Indigenous place-making within Canadian urban centres.