The Brooklyn Rail


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JULY/AUG 2023 Issue



And I am unbecoming,
un papelito tieso,
as I drink the stuff, wool-clotted
centuries, red, weaving into and out of
tus manos azules, hebras, ojos
en el nombril, naming everything
I remember not speaking
English, evaporating sift of years, its
residual, cragged spine, resin made
bone or hand on the evening mantelpiece,
an acropolis in pen droppings,
husks, bird parts, memory rooms
in spilt wax, receding cobalt architecture
in brilliant miniature, my brilliant tiny sun
in the orbit of my hanging eye, volcanic
soup, soft burn on my lips,
my silver, ridge-damaged,
tar-holed, black-holed countenance
my face containing all absences,
my face remembered to you
in a yellow afternoon, just passed,
just gone too
I remember everything,
mi voz acuática, tu voz volcán y
marfíl and ashing into everything.


Sits in a dark, hermetic, eight by eight foot room. Only one visitor may enter at a given time. Visits are made by appointment only and those who are not looking for it will not find it, as the museum is nestled deep in the cradle of the Zircon galaxy’s sixth latitude’s largest planet’s northernmost alpine ridge.

At a distance, the planet’s singular white, translucent peaks, rising like effulgent stalagmites into a lavender-blue sky, seem to be carved out of the same ice that covers the entirety of their surface. Yet beneath the thick layer of frost lies the characteristic clear limestone that composes much of the landscape and which can only be found in the planet’s northern region. Due to its rarity, the nearly transparent mineral has been at the center of ongoing interplanetary conflict. Foreign factions call for a slackening of the strict codes that, up until this point, made access to the resource nearly impossible. Meanwhile, the region’s inhabitants have staunchly advocated for the right to preserve their natural patrimony, arguing that a depletion of the rare mineral might cause a permanent change in the delicate, deceptively fertile ecosystem, and ultimately lead to the collapse of the alpine ridge. Among the diaphanously camouflaged flora and fauna that would likely disappear if this were to occur, is the sweet winter pear, which grows straight out of the snow on a gentle white sapling resembling a miniature birch.

Despite the struggle against deregulation, the clear limestone has made its way to underground markets throughout the sixth latitude, sold at an astounding range of prices and models, from brute stones on aluminum bands, to lentil-sized gems unto which infinitesimal facades are carved by hand. The local population, concentrated in one snow-bastioned village, has resorted to setting up an impromptu guard that circles the base of the mountains at all times.

The museum of stills, an equally inestimable resource to some––including Documentary Director Walton Hehrzhey who is making a film about the alpine struggle although he doesn’t know it yet, sits quiet in its mountain cradle, unassuming and mostly unperturbed by the surrounding conflict. To make an appointment, the visitor must navigate an archaic bureaucracy of stamped filecards, notarized permits, letters of intent, telegrams, and faxes, composing a true and monumental test to the visitor’s love of cinema. The process has deterred even the most zealous of mineral-traders and foreign investors, who might have hoped to gain access to the mountain region through a visit to the museum. In the end, only the most stubborn, stringent, and earnestly-intentioned of academics, filmmakers, and unemployed auto-didacts have found themselves before its black door, emerging seemingly out of nowhere on the frozen ravine.

Rows and rows of filing cabinets, extending quasi-infinitely in all four directions into the surrounding mountains, blend seamlessly into the room’s black walls. The attendant, a small, nervous woman with hair the color of wove paper and round yellow glasses, sits at a desk at the very back. Though not affable she is effective, and will help the visitor locate any desired still. It’s said that the museum contains all possible stills of all possible films, and although there is really no way to know whether this is true, no visitor has ever managed not to find what they came for.

Once a desired still has been located, the attendant dons a pair of gloves, and delicately places the miniature negative on an electrographic projector. The projector then layers the still onto four-dimensional reality. The stirring completeness of this projection––its lush detail, tone, texture, architectural depth, and biometrically reproduced environment is, according to many, an unparalleled achievement of archival science.

Free to walk around within the projected still, reveling in every detail of the set, the visitor might feel the weight of the detective’s pen on the small back-room desk, snake through a miniature metropolis of steel and sculptor’s clay, or tread through the marshes of Oblast and gaze at drowning horses. If they so wish, they may even place their own lips on the half-open mouth of the tragic Swede––frozen, warm, in stirring close-up. And though they will not hear her breath, as the image is crystallized in the nanometric precision of the shutter, they will feel the soft flyaways at the top of her head rustle ever so slightly in the faint breeze of electrographic projection.


Susana Plotts-Pineda

Susana Plotts-Pineda is an artist, writer, and translator. Her writing has been featured in Kitchen Magazine, Global Performance Studies, Waif Magazine and The Drunken Canal. Recently, her manuscript was selected as a finalist at Wendy's Subway. Her performances and film have shown at Performance Studies International, Beam Center’s The Lighthouse on Governors Island, and the Orange County Film Fiesta. She received her MFA in Poetry at Brooklyn College. Currently, she is the Latino Poetry Fellow at Library of America.


The Brooklyn Rail


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