Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Papaya Mistake?

I may have made a mistake. I'm not sure yet. I'm here at art school in Barcelona, and I kept missing class because of depression, paranoia, etc. So when it came time to present a work of art related to our personal identity, I decided to drop another papaya, only this time as performance art, in a gallery/classroom. I dropped the papaya from about 8 feet up, so it did not break completely. I spoke some of the details of the accident and its aftermath. I explained that this was less a presentation of art and more a necessary communication from me to them, in hopes of dissipating my fears so that I could come to class.

They all critiqued it as a work of art - "you should have just dropped the papaya and not said anything" "you should have smeared the papaya guts all over yourself" "this is NOT a place for art therapy, this is a place for art, and your 'performance' doesn't belong" "I didn't want all those details" "I wanted more details".....and so on. It degenerated into me shouting that I HAD prepared another, completely impersonal piece, but that I needed to share this as a human being, not as 'an artist'.

So it wasn't my most successful venture.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I dropped a papaya
off the roof
to watch it smash on the ground.

Then I took lots of close-up pictures of the carcass

The car accident was an act of destruction
in which I feel I was forced to participate
I was not the author of those moments,
nor an arbiter of the physics
vector force of metal on flesh
I was not acting deliberately or willfully in any way
I can't even remember what happened

It has left me
It has turned my skin inside out.

I DECIDED to drop the papaya,
I carried it up the stairs,
I opened the door,
I held it out over empty space, and
I dropped it.


I documented it myself
the pulp oozing out of the rind
the juice flowing into the grass
no police or coroners necessary.

And I cleaned it up.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

PARASITES OF THE MIND: PTSD Healing: What are the Causes of PTSD?

PARASITES OF THE MIND: PTSD Healing: What are the Causes of PTSD?

Bad (North) America

I am furious with Ronald Reagan, with Oliver North, with both George Bushes, and, yes, with Bill Clinton. US intervention in Central America and all over the world is perceived here in Nicaragua as imperial arrogance.

It doesn’t matter that I tried to educate my schoolmates about the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, that I marched against the first Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq, that I have worked and voted in favor of greater democracy and self-determination. It doesn’t matter that there are thousands of Americans here working in public service, and that some of them have been here since the Sandinista revolution.

When something bad happens I’m immediately swept into the Ugly American category, no questions asked. Jessica doesn’t exist as an individual person, she’s just another one of those selfish gringos who thinks she can get away with anything, who thinks that brown people don’t matter. Decades of poison.

And this is only Nicaragua – think about Pakistan.

This experience of being treated with derision and hate gives me some idea of how much work President Obama, the US government, and the American people have ahead of us before people in other countries start to think well of us again.

(my photo of a Spanish-speaking worker preparing to cover a Shepard Fairey mural of President Obama on a wall in Washington DC.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

House Arrest

the idea is to keep me a semi-liberated prisoner,
prevented from leaving the country,
when actually I don’t want to leave the house.
I’m a prisoner inside my own head,
captive of grief and self-torment,
paranoid that every person outside will spit on me.

The cop who took my garland came back later.

“These tragedies happen all the time in Nicaragua
It was an accident,
You shouldn’t feel so terrible
It wasn’t your intention to hurt anyone
Even tho they are still going to try to lock you up for several years.
Do you want to read my Bible?
Is Jesus your Savior?

Look, thank you for trying to help, I appreciate your kind words.
I’m Jewish, and sort of Buddhist, but not really religious,
and I’m too distraught right now to contemplate any evangelical attempts.
They kind of make me feel ambushed
But thank you for your support.

(recycled throne by Otto Castillo)

Heavy Mo/u/rning

Sitting alone in the cell, on the top bunk,
Looking at the blood on my clothes
Out out damn spot!
I tear the t-shirt first
Then the jeans
I tie them end-to-end,
Weaving in strips of a Vogue magazine someone brought for me.
(here! You killed 2 people and you’re in jail! How about some expensive fashion to cheer you up?)
a policeman checking on me thought I was preparing to hang myself.
Was I?
I don’t know.

I told him I was making decorations for the cell.
I wanted time to think.
He took my garland away.
Was that for my protection, or his?
The police had ignored or overruled 2 medical reports saying I needed urgent psychiatric attention
In their determination to keep me in this cell,
so I doubt they would want anyone to know I was actively trying to hurt myself,
or that I was loca enough to make decorations out of evidence

(mixed media painting/collage by Jessica Hirst)

13 - Rupture

Now I’m the villain
In one second
That you can’t even remember
As though between going to bed and waking
You become The Bad Guy in the movie
They call you, YOU,
The Accused
The Criminal
What happened?
Why are people using these familiar words in reference to YOU,
Of all people?
You haven’t changed inside, but
Outside everything is different,
You can never return to your previous identity,

Your Self is divided between Before and After
Two sisters died
Although it seems impossible to accept that you had
something to do with their deaths

The Universe has ruptured, and I am trapped inside the tear

De la buena a la mala
En un segundo que ni recordas te conviertes en La Mala de la pelicula. Te llaman la acusada, la criminal. Y no entiendes como paso que estan usando estas palabras para referir a vos. No has cambiado como persona por adentro, pero por afuera todo es diferente, ya no puedes regresar a tu identidad anterior, porque hay dos hermanas fallecidas, y aunque parezca imposible sus muertes tiene que ver con vos. Siente como una ruptura en el universo.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

12 - the next night

The next night they put another woman in our cell,
Crying hysterically,

How could she forgive him?
They were coming,
The man, the spies
I couldn’t protect her!

Incoherent anguish

As there were no more mattresses, my cellmate invited the newcomer to share hers,
Which was scarcely wide enough for one person
I assumed the crying woman had been in a traumatic traffic accident, like me, In the morning of offered her my bread and water
(the jail doesn’t provide food. If you have no one to bring you food, I guess you starve)

La próxima noche metieron otra mujer, llorando histéricamente, hablando de que no podía perdonarlo, porque, porque, angustia incoherente. Como no había otro colchon, mi compañera la invitó a compartir el suyo, ya casi demasiado pequeña para una persona. Asumí que a ella le habia pasado un accidente de tránsito traumatico igual que yo. Por la mañana le ofrecí de mi pan y agua.

(image by CHUCK)

Days later I read in the newspaper that this inconsolable woman was in jail because she had
Thrown her baby in the latrine
It drowned
She was psychotic, post-partum I thought.
How could she ever get over this?
An innocent death

How can any of us be certain we will never be struck by
a craziness,
A loss of sensibility,
A few seconds out of our control?

Días despues leí en el periódico que ella estuvo preso por botar a su bebe en la letrina, que le había pegado una locura post parto.
Como asimilar algo así? La mujer inconsolable, un muerto inocente.
Como puede estar seguro uno que una locura, una perdida de sentido, algunos segundos fuera de control nunca te van a golpear?

11 goodness

Chica, debes subir aquí conmigo y mirar afuera, y platicamos.
Ella estaba sentada en la cama arriba, desde donde una podria mirar afuera, por la ventana estrecha.
Siente el viento,
el sol,
mira a los arboles,
a la gente.
Todavia estamos vivos,
Todavía somos mujeres!

My dear girl, climb up here with me and look outside, and let´s talk.
She was sitting on one of the top bunks, from which one could look outside, through the narrow window with a broken screen.
Feel the wind,
the sun,
look at the trees,
at the people.
We are still alive.
We are still women!

Mi compañera nunca me preguntó porque estaba allí, ni le pregunté a ella. Estuvimos dos mujeres atrapadas en situaciones traumaticas, y esto fue suficiente.

Incluso ella era diabética y no la habían dado su tratamiento por 4 días. Cuando al fin grité que por emergencia esa mujer necesitaba a un médico
se desmayó y tuvieron que llevarla chineada.

Y no obstante ella tenia la fuerza para estar generosa de espíritu conmigo.

My cellmate never asked me why I was there, and I didn’t ask her. We were two women trapped in traumatic situations, and that was enough.

She was diabetic and they hadn´t given her treatment in the four days she had been locked up. I could tell she was not well, and I started calling out to the guards. I finally screamed
Emergency! This woman needs a doctor! Hello??
When the guard came she fainted and he had to carry her like a baby. And she was not a small woman.

Despite all this she had the strength and the will to be generous of spirit, to share herself with me.

Como puedo comprender todo eso, que por medio de los momentos más oscuros hay puntos de luz, de gente que no tienen nada salen regalos. Que hay buena gente en todos rincones.

Astounding, really, to experience.
It really is true that in the midst of the darkest moments there are points of light,

That from people who have nothing come gifts.

That there are good people in all corners.

(photo by Carl Hamilton)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

10 - la celda/the cell

Me metieron en la celda por la noche, llorando y media paralizada. Uno de los policía susurro algo en el oido de la otra presa en la celda y se fueron. Creo que esta mujer me cuidaba toda la noche, porque cada vez que me desperté la vi mirándome como una mamá mira a su bebe mientras duerme.

They put me in the cell for the night, crying and half-paralyzed. One of the policemen whispered something to the other prisoner in the cell before they left.

I think this woman watched over me all night, because every time I woke from my nightmares she was looking at me with the concerned gaze of a mother checking on her baby.

(heartwings painted by the Mayorga girls on their fence, Acahualinca, Managua)

El día siguiente no quería abrir mis ojos por miedo de ver que mi pesadilla fuera realidad.

Ëstar encerrada te hace loco a uno, dijo mi compañera de celda. Debes bañarte chica.

Todavía andaba la misma camiseta y jeans del accidente, manchados con sangre, sudor, tierra, suero, y lágrimas. Echando copas de agua sobre mi cuerpo morado, cortado y inflamado, con mis pies plantados a cada lado del hueco inodoro, se me pegó la imagen de un ritual de purificación. Con solo este agua cayendo sobre mi piel recuerdo que estoy viva, y es una sensación bella.
Pero las hermanas nunca van a tener esta sensación jamás, ¿Como pueden existir estas dos realidades?

( image by CHUCK, Guatemala)
The next day I didn’t want to open my eyes for fear of seeing that my nightmares were reality.

Being locked up can make one crazy, she said. You should bathe, it will make you feel better, more human. I was still wearing the same t-shirt and jeans I had on when the accident happened, stained with blood, sweat, earth, IV fluid and tears.

The bathroom in the cell was nothing more than a whole in the ground next to an open tank of water. With one foot on either side of the toilet hole I dipped the cup into the tank and poured it over my head.

Spilling cups of lukewarm water over my bruised, cut and inflamed body felt like a purification ritual out of someone else’s religion. With all that had happened I still had a skin, still could feel the life in my body, and appreciate that life as something beautiful. But the Espinoza sisters will never again have this sensation, water on their skin. How can both these realities, my life and their non-lives, exist?

9 - Guarded

Every time I opened my eyes there was a police officer standing over me.
He stayed there all night and into the next day.
I never saw him sit down or eat or go to the bathroom.

Not that you would want to use the bathrooms in this hospital. I don’t know why I was surprised that not even the bathrooms in a hospital would have toilet paper or be clean.
The ambulance took me to a public hospital because I didn’t have health insurance. The hospital had few resources, and I’m sure I had a cot behind a drawn curtain only because I was a foreigner.

When I staggered out toward the Ladies Room, leaning on the policeman, the many sick folks crammed into hard plastic chairs lining the hall looked up at me and started whispering to one another.

Only then did I start to remember what the embassy lady told me, and realize that this polite police officer was there to guard me, as a prisoner.

I tried to throw up, but there was nothing in my stomach.

What’s in this IV? I’m not sick, I mean, I don’t need medicine. Are you sedating me?
No, no te preocupes, no es nada..
My heavy lids fell shut again and I was lost.

8 - blood

Then we go to draw my blood. As the nurse is inserting the needle into my arm a woman from the US Embassy says

¨They´re saying you killed two people¨.

she says this almost casually, as if by her tone of voice she can moderate my reaction.

Instead her words push me outside of my body, so that I’m watching this horrifying scene,
which couldn’t possibly be happening to me,
it’s someone else´s drama,
it’s in the newspaper,
it’s on tv,
That's not me sitting in the wheelchair,
THAT's me, watching from the upper corner of the room, hiding in a light fixture.

I see Jessica’s body stiffen in rejection of this insane suggestion,
I see her legs explode outward from the chair and her
arms, needles dangling and blood spurting,
fly toward the ceiling.


¨Well, I thought you should know¨

The two nurses are grabbing my limbs, trying to hold me still and force the syringe onto the needle hanging out of my arm.
¨Maám, you have to calm down. Tranquila, tranquila¨


“I don’t think we can get her sample right now.”

I think they sedated me after that.

Not until the next day did I notice the blood spattered on my jeans and tshirt.

7 - numb

In the hospital, a gentle man helps me into a wheelchair and rolls me to get some x rays. Where does it hurt? Where does it hurt?
Everywhere, and nowhere. I must be in shock.

Although I can barely see out of my left eye because of the swelling,
and my words are warped by my fat lip,
and apparently I´ve just been in a very bad accident, my body is numb.

Not paralyzed numb, just numb.
No shooting, no splitting, no searing, just
Through a space in the haze I saw the blur of a person with long hair spread out on the ground, not moving.

I heard someone screaming.

It was me.

Please, let me wake up. Please, please, let me wake up!

(image from a painting by Otto Castillo)

5 -please rewind

I saw some people out the broken side window, and I called for help, and they told me Espera,
help is coming.
I started yelling
Necesito un telefono!

Somehow I thought that if I could reach O. before his plane took off that everything would be alright, that his presence would roll back the clock to before this moment, when we were whole.

Time must stop

4 - can't remember

I don´t remember

I don´t remember

I can´t remember!

How is it possible that you don´t remember? Asked the policeman with the pad and pen

I remember dropping O. off at the airport.
I remember driving along Carretera Norte.
I remember missing the turn to pass the stadium.
I remember deciding not to stop again at the café because I’d already bought 2 cappuccinos this morning.

The next thing I remem ber is the impact of the airbags against my face, and not being able to see anything clearly.

a lot a noise.
I was crying.
Everything blurred

Saturday, May 30, 2009

3 - the Plan

The Universe seems ludicrous, as do people’s efforts to console me.

People I know here, both Nicaraguan and the missionaries from the US, seem, in general (and I hate to generalize), much more convinced than most people I know back home that God has it all figured out for us.

If this accident is part of God’s Plan, I’m sure I don’t understand how the plan works, or why God picked me to play this part in it.

image by CHUCK, a friend and artist in Managua

2 - the plastic bag

I sat on the top bunk of the cell and looked out the window into the sunshine and trees. A plastic bag danced past, pushed along by the wind, until it crashed into the concrete fence.

Yes, of course I thought of the scene in the movie ‘American Beauty’
when the teenage kid shows his favorite piece of video,
and it’s a plastic bag being blown around in the wind,
and we all thought it was so profound,
and then the film won lots of awards,
and the plastic bag became a visual cliche.

But I must tell you, in this moment of sitting in jail,
not having eaten,
changed clothes,
been able to see (glasses smashed),
eaten more than a piece of bread, in several days,

AND having had the deaths of two young women rip through everything that ever made sense in my life,
this particular plastic bag was pretty fucking profound.

Day 1

I am painfully aware that these musings will look trite and banal next to premeditated contemporary art or carefully crafted poetry, but as they are pressing down on my soul, here they are.

How much does it matter that
you try to
be a good person,
follow the rules,
act responsibly,

that you live in peace with those around you?