The following excerpt from Kátia Bandeira de Mello Gerlach’s work appears as a part of a series featuring fellows in the New York Foundation for the Arts Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program. Read Kátia’s essay about her relationship with language here.
Esteemed J. Cortázar,
I suffer from intermittent headaches and light up my dreams with the head of a match. The fluid from the latest generation of analgesics inundates my blood. During the addiction-fueled reveries, I speak with masters of the universe and celebrated luminaries now deceased, you among them. I implore La Maga, in this game of hopscotch, to help me create as much adherence of characters and beasts to the page as to the soul of this or that reader.
I write as an act of resistance (my language lives on the pedestal of extinction). Exile that I am, like the esteemed J. Cortázar once was in Paris, or Bolaño was in Spain’s summer campsites, I merely change cities. The continent that is yours, his, mine continues to drift toward one-eyed futures which stand ajar like Magritte’s door.
The foolishness of megalomania is noted (therapy sessions do not reveal the extent of my ambitious imagination, ha!) and my truculent face matches the overall picture of things.
I am beastly, like all of us on this planet, about to be plunged into darkness just as soon as god uses his furious finger to flick the switch.
A Head Full of Animals
The Towers on One Hundred Street, half a meter away from the Square of Time
Under the Blue Telescope
Anuschka plants seeds from a packet in the pot of cracked, reddish clay, her hands caressing the earth to bring on the ritual of spring in a fall month. From the balcony down to the street: tortuous palms, thumb over thumb, the descent made by rope. Anuschka’s eyebrows draw closer together, in an effort of the intellect to guess at the sensation of a vertical jump from the suspended balcony. Fingers knead the roots—she wants parsley and basil leaves, she wants traces of oxygen and photosynthesis. The dwarf shows little interest in leaving the apartment, or the enclosure of the Towers. A matter of sowing and waiting for the bloom.
From a point down below, through a blue telescope, the sight of Anuschka’s body huddled on the rusty-railed balcony appears before us. The curtains flap about almost as if they did not belong to the apartment. The objects piled up in the corners of the balcony will dare to take flight should the weather vanes accelerate. The garbage is strewn about like microorganisms forming a patina, and fills the morning trucks. The garbage men run this way and that with the cans. A dance! At the other end, Anuschka admires the uninhibited movements of those bodies, free and intact, hanging from the side of the truck.
She curls her crimson lips. A well-fed figure; she runs inside, into the apartment’s stained hallway, and the lens in the blue telescope no longer feeds the vultures. The female dwarf steps unhappily onto the linoleum floor of the kitchen. Her little master was a skinflint in the mold of Father Goriot. The tighter Juarez grasped his scepter, the more Anuschka felt resentment mingle with deference before the high and mighty one. A marble kitchen, an illusion. As for the intimacy between them: were they siblings, lovers or the Tsar’s playthings? Nobody, save for a certain ringmaster, Doctor Moskowitz, knew.
*Story inspired by a Diane Arbus photo.