excerpt from Heathers

by Marissa Anne Ayala

You can take your things upstairs, let me show you / tires spun / gravel kicked dust / her saddle shoes nearly touching beneath the maple tree/ through the screen door she saw his pregnant cat / Uma / Uma / Uma / he called standing in the door’s light / Pierre Boulez / the screen door shut behind her / light sifted through lace curtains / draped near a bird-shaped lamp/ a hawk feather / books leaned on the wooden dresser / her feet sunk in the rug / lingering refusals / no no no / the thin line yesss / her Aunt’s voice / an echo in tires  / the Tennessee plates disappeared / & Max placed the suitcase by the bed.

Heather / looked looks looking / a way to fit into the piece of day / arriving / a violet tulip / Vancouver’s Bay sparkles / shadows tilt / mountains / morning / heels & car keys & street lamps still lit / in the beating of wind / she / Heather / approaches / an old bank / now a gallery/ dressed like a blood clot / pushing her muscles forward / sun ripples / her vision softer / catching the structure / the slant of light & shadows / like he taught her. Enter the gallery / Heather? Is the painting for you?/ No, for a friend / Cash or card? / Cash/ Would you like to see it first?/ No / Susan, wrap Heather / Wait, yes / she yanks at every nerve ending / wanting / needing / to cut / a cicatrix from her body / What is  / cellular / ? / What is / memory / ?

The wind chime / curtains shook / Uma on her ankle / Pierre Boulez / again / softer / louder / softer / footsteps / screen door unhinged / in this room she heard / wind creaking wooden slabs  / one exposed beam / a cross hatched roof  / sun / yellow / grains in fields / a maple tree shook / an oak dropped / bounced / rolled into the gutter / in the bathroom she splashed cool water on her face and combed her hair back / it was the only image of herself she really liked / in that oval mirror/ her eyes clear / her face no longer swollen / she arrived at Max’s home / she belonged / somewhere / to clean & care & learn just like her mother.

Heather is on the heels of her shoes by the entrance to the Backroom / dusty citron hues / the florescent glow pulls / at her hair / penetrates her gaze / seeps into her skin. Easily persuaded / she pushes off the wall and enters the light / her coat slips off her shoulders / dragging nervously forward / the hallway: seven footsteps, a tin ceiling, the slight undulation of light /  the dim swallows her shoes / cloaks her figure in muteness / when she enters the room she hears unhappiness dismembers you  / a film projected in the gallery next to this one  / alone, she pushes forward.

In the mirror was her undeveloped self / an open letter on the dresser:  structured like a notebook are our refusals / handfuls of cotton dresses folded / creased  / tucked beneath the metal buckles / Cynthia was a red canvas / in the living room / downstairs / Max pointed does this look like your mother? No need to answer. Let’s begin / Enter the studio/ through a doorway / off the kitchen / ochre and brown easels / blue splattered sheets / oversized drafts of portraits & brushes & jars & a farm sink / he showed her / ran her fingers through the horsehair / gently / bits of green pigment in ribbons / in water/ until the water ran clear. / She watched him maneuver around paint cans & followed his footsteps. / Heather explored the room with her fingers / you pull the canvas like this / the canvas was stiff / difficult to stretch / you mix & pour & when you pour it is steady / the body will tell you when to start / when to stop & we will know when you do not listen. / See? / Chunks of indigo in the pigment / he poured it on wax paper / too thick. / Her fingers ached / and she twisted the rags & thought / no, that does not look like her.

Heather reaches the threshold / light traces the guttural space / she finds the walls and wants to measure their distance / instead she notes their color as ivory, but no, she settles for eggshell with a touch of fog. Half-light brushes / scratches / dull incandescence onto her skin / hair / into the cotton fibers of her sweater / there is a clutter of objects: an old sink / a mannequin / a dead moth pinned to the blue canvas / a 1/2 empty box of film slides / Heather steps deeper into the cold room / the gallery strikes her / dark pools of unlit gaps / the impression of a night-lit sea / a puddle of oil / she, Heather, was born in Sleepy Hollow / a place that is a gap, lacuna, fissure & understands the birthplace as if she is subject to the same monstrous void. She steps into the hollow.

They drove the coastline to Cape Cod / it was summer / in the cabin was his collection of broken lamps / when he was anxious he arranged the washers, dusted the reflector bowls, polished the finials, and coiled the wires tightly. / That summer he asked her to get affected by the sun & in turn she grew wild / Max fed her theories of Bernard Berenson  /  “Painting is an art which aims at giving an abiding impression of artistic reality with only two dimensions.  The painter must, therefore, do consciously what we do unconsciously,- construct his third dimension…His first business is to rouse the tactile sense  / She let her young mind consume / & he controlled the consumption.

Have you heard of Max? A woman’s voice startles her / rich / with a deep crack when she crosses the X with her tongue & teeth / I don’t follow art / It’s an odd piece – very yellow / I suppose / she was getting closer / to Heather / it’s right this way.

Scrawled across the beach studio was white calligraphy / ink is the throat of memory / it’s my favorite inscription / she stepped on piles of hardened glue & paper / I had a dream / this came out of my throat / out of my spine / & when I woke I wrote it.

Why does her body feel split/ between the doorway and backroom / she stares / again / at the dull bulb / feels the pull / enters / the dim cloaks her figure in muteness / not all objects rest in a state of disconnect  / I know / annoyed at his voice still intertwined with her own / the air ripples away from her / crashes against walls / returns to graze against her / automata develops in this space / the walls/ a second body / harvest the palpitations of florescent light / flickers imprint a becoming / a pliable/ biological / psychotic / growth of spatial dimensions that control her / Heather / this illusory peristaltic movement.

Heather adopted his teachings/ reduced the Cape Cod coastline / brilliantly lit / into geometric / abstractions; shapes / shapes that moved with internal freedom / no need to conform /  They have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms.  /  The landscape transformed into a grid of opposing & complementary multiform images / orange buoys in an aquamarine sea / a red violet birdhouse in a cerulean field filled of golden rods / Heather practiced / the art of placement / adjusting the view.

The walls contract / rebuild her / autogenesis / again / this time / it is her wanting / needing / tappet lucid / rebuild sight/ again/ this time its a bright tapestry / of light / to reflect / visible light / back through the retina.

In Cape Code buoys reduced to orange cylinders / sea was an aquamarine rectangle / a birdhouse was a red-violet square / a field with wildflowers  / transformed into a cerulean rectangle with deep yellow highlights / a seascape with a sailboat:triangle / the smooth ocean:flat-indigo / a cream lighthouse:cylinder/ let the sun stain your body / the sea’s salt coated / wind twisted / sun bleached  / her hair into yellow knots / her feet thickened / crossing / broken-shells / barnacles / rusty nails / & this landscape, it ravaged her.


Marissa Anne Ayala is a poet and visual artist based in Astoria, NY. She studied at Naropa University, The New School, and recently attended the Home School poetry conference. Her work is featured in Connotation Press, Handwritten, Kolaj Magazine, and an upcoming print edition of Glassworks Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @MarissaAAyala.

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