Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ana's Story (Poem)

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works in Mexico, 1973-77
Color Photograph, 19-3/8" x 26-9/16"

Ana's Story

She made me change her light bulbs.
      She was afraid of heights. . . would never go near windows.
           ~ Carolee Schneeman on "Where is Ana Mendieta?"

Her contour
bloodied pavement not
yet rubbed clean,
its cold stains
a gritty premonition
of violence timed

not to birth,
unscripted, not carved
in soft lime
stone visage,
no trinity of ficus
branches looped secure.


Smudged crimson,
a Cuban Eve, her
life's primal
shape earth's own,
till her Carl, his anger pitched,
gave her up to sky.


Carl Andre, husband,
spent three years
on his own
dull story:
Ana went out the window
but not by his hands.

pounds she was; Carl not
twice more: more.
The room mess,
the scratches, and No, no, no
heard but never proved.


When she fell
thirty-four stories,
her age just
how could she know we'd lament
her body's swoop down,

stuck between her legs,
bare arms spread
out and wide,
her pigment branding concrete
without resistance?


She laid down
for us her handprints,
burning one
cement gash
into another; each smear
impressed, reduced; less

sign Ana was here.
Let's be frank:
one air jump;
Ana supine, cut close, she
has no surrogate.


Ancient marks
like hers point us back:
or cave man's
sacrificial rite? How red
did red flow for Carl?

When she raised
her hands, palms up, out
by her head,
did Ana
draw first the blood on Carl's nose,
scratch fresh his forearms?


She, naked,
from the window plunged.
Done, it's done.
What murder?
Simple proof makes dumb to eyes
witnessing no crime.


Who defends
her body absent,
rues her gone?
Which stranger's
reproach bids her check her fear
of heights in blood work?


Death makes art
of Ana's demise,
rests in tracks
in brown wounds,
in siluetas washed out
with red tide to sea.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

Artist Ana Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1948 and died in 1985, in a fall from the thirty-fourth-floor window of a New York City apartment she shared with her husband, the sculptor Carl Andre. Andre subsequently was arrested and charged with second-degree murder; three years later, the prosecution's case bungled, Andre was acquitted. It is not known whether Mendieta was pushed, jumped, or accidentally fell from the window.

"Where is Ana Mendieta? Donde esta Ana Mendieta? 25 Years Later: A Symposium" is the subject of this article, "The Case of Ana Mendieta", in Art in America, October 12, 2010, which, with others about Ana Mendieta, inspired my poem. 

Of Related Interest

Alistair Rider, Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements (Phaidon, 2011)

Robert Katz, Naked by the Window: The Fatal Marriage of Carl Andre and Ana Mendieta (Atlanta Monthly Press, 1990)

Randy Kennedy, "For Carl Andre, Less Is Still Less", The New York Times, July 14, 2011

Interestingly, Andre also is a poet.


Glynn said...

It's a disturbing story - but likely the perfect poem for it.

Nancie Mills Pipgras said...

Powerful stuff, Maureen. Incredibly evocative. I am disturbed

Hannah Stephenson said...

Wow. Upsetting. But it's important to write about these things when we are compelled to, as you are.

Louise Gallagher said...

I had to consciously breathe as I read this -- very powerful and disturbing.

Valerie Kamikubo said...

I hadn't heard of her before, and am thankful for my visit here this morning. Her work, though strikingly beautiful, saddens me by it's almost prophetic quality. Your poem expresses it perfectly, I think... it's very courages of you to explore this, Maureen

hedgewitch said...

Fascinating subject for a poem, and executed with tenderness and skill. They say part of the fear of heights is feeling an overwhelming sense of already falling, or even of feeling compelled to fall. I have it in a minor way, and I can say, that would be the last way I'd chose to die, but who knows. Part of the fascination in this poem is that it asks more questions than can be answered.

Brian Miller said...

goodness maureen...intense and vivid...and a harrowing tale...can not imagine her flight honestly...i dream of falling at times...even though i have jumped off 300 ft cliffs...

Beachanny said...

It's as though you sculpt her with your words. Each line curves with color, her figure or her outline or her heritage or her art. There is texture, fluidity, movement, style and brilliance in this poem. Surely it must enhance her work which I don't even know but now long to meet. Thank you!

S. Etole said...

Riveting ... and sorrow-filled.

Divalounger said...

This is a harrowing tale--but a riveting poem--beautifully done!

Claudia said...

oh god...love how you captured the mystery... intense and vivid work.. never heard about her..think i need to read her story..

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just...wow.

Anthony Desmond said...

AMAZING write... so haunting and powerful... that poor soul..

Anonymous said...

This is brilliantly, vividly written. I was not familiar with her story before but now I won't forget it.

ayala said...

Intense and amazing. Thank you for the note !

jen revved said...

The photograph only makes the poem ache more as it hits the senses and one begins to comprehend that this is testimony, the testimony that convinces and convicts: an intense, riveting and I'm sure, hard-won poem of witness, Maureen. xxxj

Charles Elliott/Beautyseer said...

An artist's death her final work of art? carries performance art further than most of us are likely to want to go. But you made an fascinating and evocative poem out of this puzzling story.

Should we say, don't try this at home?

Ruth said...

The imagery of the ficus, the wildflowers and the other colors and shapes you include in your powerful poem really temper the weight and pain of this story with beauty. It is a terrifying subject, and as Hedge says, you treat it with tenderness. Fine work.

Shawna said...

These are some of the lines I really enjoyed:

"unscripted, not carved
in soft lime
stone visage,"

stuck between her legs,
bare arms spread"

"Death makes art
of Ana's demise,
rests in tracks
in brown wounds,
in siluetas washed out
with red tide to sea."

Beautiful, soulful, painful writing.

Based on your topics, I think you might really like these of mine:



Caty said...

wow, what a story...

rob kistner said...

Wow Maureen, bravo! Ambitious and gripping write here, and it engages throughout -- well written...

Maureen said...

I thank you all for reading and commenting.

This is a poem I sent out and for which I received a rejection; perhaps it was considered too long, though no reason was given. I'm pleased to know it works for all of you.