Marizó Siller, Director
Camilo Caridad Pineda, Performance
Kythe Heller, Ritual Design
Carolina Sotelo, Composer
Farida Amar, Creative Direction
Milana Burdette, Art Direction
Andru Perez, Costume Design
Special thanks to Vision Lab for the collaboration and support.
Death Valley, California, September 2021
Created in response to a poem, written by Kythe Heller, also available as a book.
In this short, experimental film, a human goes through stages of self-purification to become the Firebird.
- 4/5/21 - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- 9/15/21 - Forecast Journal Issue 8 Release Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA
- 3/21/21 - Vision Lab Conference of the Birds Festival (virtual)
- 12/21/20 - Vision Lab Phoenix Festival (virtual)
- 10/18/20 - Arrowsmith Book Release, Cambridge, MA
Excerpts from Firebird
The Spirit Neither Sorts Nor Separates
You know the photographs of the dead in heaps,
tangled in each other’s arms?
Even when I was whole all I wanted was to be healed.
We separated the X-rays into piles.
You made minimum wage and I made a dollar more
for wheeling you to the bathroom.
Benny frozen and locked in his wheelchair
pressed an automated screen
with his tongue; he would type SHIT and FUCK
to make us laugh.
At times the skeletons would resplend.
We stroked their wounds,
reached our fingers into their light shadows.
We were “developmentally disabled.”
Our fingers caressed the bones of all these broken strangers.
There are things death touches that we do not know.
There are things death touches with the intimacy of
kneeling in a field of wind alone.
“Once I lay awake to watch my lover’s face as he slept.
His forehead! His cheek! His lips!”
Any situation can be an empty form, I told you.
Like ours, you said. A secret conduit for the language of light.
We brushed the bones from our shadows and left
then returned to them empty, reading the X-ray light like tarot.
It hurts to remember you.
Your head bowing below your heart.
Your eyes like two cups full of blood.
“Then the Goddess of Love spilled a thousand seeds on the floor
and told her to separate them into piles.”
Earth has painted me white
and adorned me with feathers.
Given me this mask of fire
fashioned from the skin of my inner thighs.
When I am laid on the altar
and my life shatters, Earth says:
The existence of the world depends on the heart’s ascending flight.
(something sobbing in me all the time, all the time)
When my lover touches me, what I feel in my body
is like the awkward thrashing of a bird
slipping out from two palms, as the breath catches—
each moment the limit of the flame
to which it owes its flying.
I do not know if it’s called pleasure or pain.
I feel him directly.
Let Me Begin Again
Let me touch lightly with my hand all I have known.
Leave all that is mine on the street again.
Let strangers tune the guitar, hold the dress up to check the fit.
Let the nametag be torn from the suitcase. Thrown away.
Let me be no one again.
Let my bed be bare ground. Bus station grass where the deer once lay.
Child fort in the park, indefensible and inviolate.
Let the baby’s wage be my value. The shelter my home. Time and place.
Let me pass through all I’ve left behind, until the goodbye enters.
Train me to darkness.
Let me know what it is to know.
Begin with: offering a leaf.
Joy streaming through our bodies clenched together on the top floor.
Offer the grief. The squirrel’s head crushed by a heel.
The silence inside the burnt-out tree.
Let me learn to sleep alone in the wind.
Take only the night sky, its endlessness.
Take the mattress under the overpass, the bed no one else wants.
Nothing you could not gather at the last hour, visible or invisible.
If it comes to that. It will always come to that.
How a runaway girl is like a fire: she slips out from the shelter, onto the street of Sleepfield, and runs, her shirt flickering out behind her. The method of fire is one of pure need accompanied by the husk of the body. The girl’s desperation flames out from her to meet the city’s tense mirror, producing, if one narrows the eyes, a threatening display.
I am writing for you, in November. It’s cold. The fire girl was like a fetus, hidden, compelled to emerge. A match with fire inside like a seed. I remembered her in the room of the shelter lit by small pink lamps. I illuminated them in my mind—no. What gives light must suffer burning.
A text is a mirror, the report of a crime. Chronologies of escape record only the perimeter, the edge of the forest, not the transformation.
I was almost to the forest. I was almost to the forest when he reached out and grabbed me back by my hair, my mouth forced open to an O.
What is the procedure of escape? Become invisible not to risk detection. Pretend everything is normal. I was a girl buying a train ticket, to visit someone in Boston. Perhaps an aunt. No one knew the thing inside me that wanted out.
Scritch. The body a piece of sandpaper on the edge of the matchbook. The escape. How one is trained to pretend. It’s only a match. It will not feed. I will not satisfy its hunger. I promise to kill it as every insatiable thing must be killed in order to live. Wanting to be found. To burst into flame.
Rise and eat. Rise and eat. Devour.