Scenes From a Pandemic: 5

4 05 2020

by Anna Flores

This post continues a series of dispatches from Kopkind participants, advisers, guests and friends on life in coronavirus time as they observe it. The series is a collaboration between Kopkind and The Nation.

(illustration: Piersten Doctor)

A Letter to My Landlord

Phoenix. May Day

The days are screaming at the tops of their lungs, coming from the center of somewhere far away and deep inside. 

I have been trying to write this letter to you.

Dear Landlord, 

Due to Covid-19, our anxieties are constellating into clusters of moonlit shock and bracing splendor. Outside, a pair of shiny elevator doors hangs from a white crane, an abandoned pendulum in the sky. Under the swaying, many of us are able only to hallucinate the act of sending you a check on the 1st. I think of dates and time as the evening’s mountains in silhouette, a consecutive line. I imagine scaling the dips and peaks into a Morse-coded message but, today, the hiking trails are packed with people who all had the same idea, and every body becomes a hatch mark in a throbbing line graph. As a precaution to prevent further spread, and to cling to as much of our current health as we can, many of us have chosen, been strongly advised to stay, or been sent home. Are you home with your pets, with your family? I’m rationing my brothers’ faces indefinitely because they’re not on Facebook or a wifi plan, and the US-Mexican border, like many others, is closed to nonessential travel: a desperate expression of divine entry, an imagined, immunological edge, but border cities are not clean cut. Many of us have made a commute across that frontier—now a metal carcass with restless K9s and masked agents. Here, instead of ordering N95 masks, we are trying to ensure a roof over our heads. We have come together so we may represent our interests as people who give you money to claim a place to sleep.

We are writing to request three things:

1. That you refuse to evict tenants from any of your properties.

2. That you suspend rent in full for any tenants who are unable to pay.

3. That you turn toward a humming red regard for other human beings by denying a life contorted into stacks of possessions on your shelves.

On March 30, the State of Arizona issued a shelter-in-place order: an official, on-record gasp stamped with a golden seal and signed by a nervous politician. In an unprecedented statement, the same governor who had previously tried to cement a ban on sanctuary cites that help protect undocumented immigrants from being torn from their communities said this: “Nobody should be forced out of their home because of Covid-19.” A recent news article read, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” Many of us are scared for our health, let alone our means of living. We hope you will do what is right, and this hope is a hope that does not rely on a virus to wake people up. No virus can sustain a revolution in anything other than a human body. We are prepared to know your true name, to stand six feet apart in solidarity, to stream together like an outburst of laughter in a new world’s throat.


Anna Flores

Anna Flores is a poet and graduate student researcher in Phoenix. Her debut collection, Pocha Theory, explores the experience of mixed-status families in the US. She was the Kopkind/Nation fellow for 2018. For more of illustrator Piersten Doctor’s work, see him on Instagram. This piece originally appeared on on April 29, 2020. We thank Katrina vanden Heuvel, D.D. Guttenplan and all our collaborators in The Nation crew.



Bonus: A Short Film From Cuba

still from Ojos/Eyes (animation: Ivette Avila and collaborators)

From Chicago, filmmaker Alexandra Halkin, who participated in the 2014 Kopkind/Center for Independent Documentary film camp, sent an update in late April about the Americas Media Initiative, which she directs:

Last month I had an unusually vivid dream about a four-eyed dog.  I told the dream to my friend the Cuban animator Ivette Avila, and sent her my rudimentary drawing of the dog’s head.  

A few days later Ivette got in touch with a number of talented Cuban artists and musicians to produce the animated film, Ojos/Eyes, which I wanted to share with you in hopes of brightening your day.

I wrote an article for OnCuba about my friendship with Ivette and how the animation came to life. We have agreed to create more video collaborations between Chicago and Cuba over the next month,  which you can follow by visiting AMI’s Facebook page.

In Cuba, the US trade embargo appears to be stopping much-needed shipments of medical supplies. Our colleague Peter Kornbluh wrote an article about the effects of the embargo now on Cuban citizens. Our on-the-ground work there has been put on hold because of the pandemic, but we continue to work remotely, staying in touch with Cuban filmmakers and continuing our collaboration with Cuban film critic Juan Antonio Garcia on the ENDAC (Cuban Digital Audiovisual Encyclopedia) website. I hope you are well and taking good care during this very stressful time.

Alexandra Halkin founded the Chiapas Media Project in 1998, a binational organization that has trained over 200 indigenous people in video production in Chiapas and Guerrero, Mexico. In 2010 she founded AMI, a nonprofit that produces, distributes and screens film and video made in the Americas by community media organizations and independent filmmakers, particularly Cubans living in Cuba. Her own films have been shown at film and video festivals worldwide. For more on AMI’s Cuban film catalogue, click here.




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