The time I saw myself on screen | Candy Alexandra

I am    impenetrable    sewn leather

stuffed    with broken bones       shoved       forgotten

in   every   dark corner     made to survive    each punch

taught         to cover up       salt swollen eye bags     disguise

raw lips   with red     tame disheveled knots     with a comb

………………………………………………………………….

I was visiting a close friend in D.C. around this time last year. On a brutally hot summer day during my visit, Margaret and I took refuge in the cool comfort of Georgetown’s movie theater. We chose to watch Beatriz at Dinner because the trailer had left lingering intrigue and curiosity that needed to be satisfied. We weren’t quite sure what we were in for, but we knew the film wouldn’t disappoint.

Beatriz at Dinner tells the story of a Mexican holistic healer and massage therapist working for a wealthy family in Newport Beach. After Beatriz’s car breaks down, she is invited to dine with the family and their guests—one of whom is Doug Strutt, a notorious real-estate mogul. During dinner, Beatriz begins to suspect that Doug owns the hotel that caused the destruction of her hometown and the separation of her family. She is poised and tenacious as she challenges Doug to confront the harm he’s caused.

My poem, I am Beatriz (after Beatriz at Dinner), began as confused, incoherent and occasionally illegible pages of distress. I needed to make sense of the moments in the film that elicited visceral reactions. Such as the moment in which the indifferent and pretentious dinner guests walked past Beatriz without acknowledging her. Or the moments in which she was called upon to speak solely to satisfy the guests’ white curiosity, and their white fantasies of Mexican immigrants. Or the moments in which she was expected to be the subservient brown person. The serviceable brown person. The person whose volume does not ever go above 40 decibels and often does not even get to speak. As a witness, I felt more distress still that Beatriz seemed entirely unaware of the onslaught of microaggressions. Beatriz’s superpower is undoubtedly her ability to remain focused on uncovering the truth about Doug. And she does so with such determination, with such openness. And it made me fear for her life.

………………………………………………………………….

I am    heaving sand   coughing up hurt       hoarse from begging

for rain         my skin drinks sun like      parched desert rivers drink water

steam is rising     from my scorched earth      I am longing     

for soft drops      to soothe my sun-ravaged      skin

………………………………………………………………….

As I watched the film, I was struck by how familiar Beatriz’s character felt. As if we’d met before. As if we were old friends. Family, even. It was perhaps Beatriz’s soft-spoken strength or the humble dignity in her posture that triggered within me that feeling of familiarity. Perhaps it was her deeply rooted resilience—the kind that grows from anguish and loss. Or her weathered gaze. Or her evident need to assuage the pains of the earth. Or her ability to stare unflinchingly into the devil’s eyes. Or the fact that at a dinner table full of wealthy, white people, her presence alone is resistance.

While writing my poem, I learned that in Beatriz, I see myself. I see my mother. I see my aunts. I see all of the women who raised me. I see all of the women who raised them, etc. Beatriz and I were raised within the skirtfolds of a particular manifestation of womanhood—one born from an amalgamation of our indigenous ancestors’ tears and generations of colonial trauma. Beatriz and I were raised to remain firmly rooted through each storm. We were raised to embody unrelenting shields. To open our arms and carry worry without complaint. To feed. To mend. To comfort. To show up for others but never show up for ourselves. And to access a wondrously limitless ability to love.

………………………………………………………………….

I am     a growing pattern    of floodlines

marking each time I’ve    walked into the ocean beckoned by

the waves’ lullaby    eyes closed skin achingly anticipating

freedom’s caress   each time I remain entranced longer

longer      walk in                  further  

………………………………………………………………….

In 2017, the load I’d been carrying my whole life as a person of color, as the child of immigrants started to weigh more heavily. Having experienced Beatriz at Dinner at a time of heightened weariness, I felt particularly inspired by the resistance of a character that is a reflection of me and the women in my family. I was moved by her sensitivity to the suffering that exists in the world and her impulse to unload the weight into the ocean. As a visual artist and writer, my visual and written work are the spaces unto which I unload.

I am Beatriz is about learning my inheritance of womanhood. It’s about the interconnectedness between each person sculpted like Beatriz. It’s about understanding that the intergenerational trauma in my body will become unbearable if left unfettered. It’s about forgiving myself when the load is too heavy and I break. It’s about exhaling in order to make space for new breath. It’s about surrendering to my senses. It’s about forging a legacy of healing to pass on the those after me. It’s about grieving openly. It’s about togetherness in the overcoming. It’s moving forward and letting go.

………………………………………………………………….

I am    a low-hung    branch

softly     grazing            the weeping woman’s river   

teasing out      the words she tucked      within each tear

to wrap        and gift

   solace

 

Zoe Rayn Evans