Share this post!

Last Modified: June 30, 2022
Sunday Shorts: Excerpt from Beyond the Gallery
Light at Dusk, by Antolina Ortiz Moore

Today’s Sunday Short —“Light at Dusk,” by Antolina Ortiz Moore, translated by Kristjanna Grimmelt — is from Beyond the Gallery: An Anthology of Visual Encounters, edited by Liuba González de Armas and Ana Ruiz Aguirre, 2021, and reprinted here by permission of Laberinto Press.

Light at Dusk

The five airplanes drew crystals of ice in the atmosphere. Their great wings began another synchronized turn. The dust rolled from one end of the cabin to the other. “Like ash,” Lola thought to herself, “the ash of my hope.” She thought of the children.

Her airplane was halfway through its formation. The sky below, the land above, the sea like a prayer lost in her throat. The condensation trail fixed her art, ephemeral on the cobalt canvas. The clouds were tinged with mauve at dusk.

As a girl, Lola used to look for God among the stars. Her mother would be there as well, her aunts in the village, in Mexico, had told her so. “Even though you can´t see her,” they said, certain of themselves, “even though you can´t hear her. There are things too small to sense, niña, or to touch. You have to have faith.” And Lola searched above her, as in a treasure map. But she found only the surprising beauty; that expanse of space where the planets are a hundred times larger than the earth and appear only as light in the void.

Lola felt she was falling. The wings of the five airplanes tilted again, writing “Breathe” in the sky. Lola thought of her father, of his strong but defeated body beneath the sheets, in the hospital, before the transplant. His heart in the hands of another. The doctor. The leap. The jump into space. “We are always alone,” her father had told her that morning, smiling, tired. “We are always alone, Lolita. Although sometimes we feel others are with us.” Both crossed borders that morning.

Now the sound broke the silence, the five motors, their ink in the sky. “We are,” they wrote, mauve clouds on the cobalt canvas. “When life ends, life ends,” Lola thought. “So, why can’t we…?” The children were light at dusk, down below, far away, in the void.

The airplane straightened out. The formation followed in unison; it seemed stuck in time, motionless. But the countryside slipped by below and behind them, fast. Lola let go of the controls for a moment and took a photo to document the largest ephemeral work of art ever made. The unease persisted in her body. The sun dotted the windows. “We are,” said the fragmented glints in the fuselages. “Breathe,” Lola savoured, wanting to know how it felt to be anesthetized, her chest open, her life in the hands of another. Helpless. And to stop breathing. The sun clinging to the window.

Lola savoured the words. The vapour escaped from the airplane. “Lolita,” her father had said to her shortly before he died, releasing control of the airplane for a moment as he did, “The void holds us up,” he said, teaching her to fly. “Like this.” He showed her. “Like this.” Her father, smiling, took the controls back. “Your name is Dolores,” her father had told her, “because what I love most is also what hurts the most.”

Now, the children saw the words the airplanes drew up above. And far off in the distance, like a second horizon, the border wall that sought to draw an impassable line on the earth. A Caesarean scar that doesn’t heal on the womb that gave life to us all, that gives birth to us. “This ‘problem’ that we have become,” Lola thought, “our heart in the hands of another, beneath the sheets, waiting for a transplant.”

A long time ago, Lola learned to swim in the ocean, in the cold, between California and Baja California with her mother. It was like flying in a liquid, freezing sky, between laughter and seagulls. Back then commercial airplanes passed over them, so close. The route went up north. One after another, they went. “There goes your father,” her mother would say each time they saw one go by. And in the afternoons the trails they left in the atmosphere were arrows pointing north, towards the destiny Lola followed with her father, when her mother died.

Sometimes Lola imagined she was a pterodactyl. They found the bones on the dunes, on the beach, soon before they buried her mother. The bones came out of the ground that her mother went into. Then her father. “And one day me,” Lola thought. “Did the pterodactyls leave trails in the sky as they flew?” She wondered.

Lola stopped looking for God in the stars. She found art. The stones taught her their material devotion, dense and heavy as existence. First in the cemetery, next to the tombstones. Round and flat, each stone different from the other. Their beauty was an homage to her mother, to her passing through the world. “They are things so small that, in fact, you can sense, you can touch,” Lola said, “you have to observe.” And sitting on the dunes, she placed them, one on top of the other, in time. The curved form revealed the missing presence of her mother on the sand, a trail of condensation in the atmosphere.

“The pterodactyl bones on the beach were bones that once flew,” Lola thought. Now they were bones next to bones, on the beach. Lola hung them from a mobile, beneath an olive tree on the coast, old and twisted. That was her most famous installation; the wind shook the ancient wings next to an empty sea that spread beyond itself.

The five airplanes, those five pterodactyls with metal bones, flew over the centres where the children were detained. The drops of condensation wrote words. “I breathe” and “You breathe” in clouds. “Below, war; here, silence,” Lola thought. “So much, so much space, between horizon and horizon, between birth and death; I only hear the voice, the voice: that voice.”

The night, the moon, her body, and the sea, and the wind, and the planets were the voices that Lola found with the treasure map above her. A stone, a star on the beach. Ephemeral. Concentric circles on the dunes. Something that never wanted to be permanent but did not wish to die— petals. “Because we are”—Lola says— “So, why can’t we…?” The vapour trails evaporated behind the airplanes. The five drew clouds. The roll angle changed again. Dust from the shoes rolled to the other side of the cabin. The ashes shone in the sun. Below, the thousands and thousands of children watched the sky. Their hope could be found with the first star—or rather a planet—a hundred times larger than the earth. The airplanes tilted their great wings, beginning their descent to the sea.

Off in the distance, on the horizon, the real horizon—the curved, the sensual, the majestic horizon—light could be seen in the void, an arrow on the beach, on the hospital bed, on the stones; those ancient birds searching for the beauty in everything, searching for meaning. That voice, that voice, and its silence.

“Light at Dusk,” by Antolina Ortiz Moore, translated by Kristjanna Grimmelt. From Beyond the Gallery: An Anthology of Visual Encounters. Ed. Liuba González de Armas and Ana Ruiz Aguirre, 2021. Reprinted by permission of Laberinto Press.


Antolina Ortiz Moore author photo

Antolina Ortiz Moore describes herself as a citizen of the world. She was born in Mexico City in 1971. She studied at the French Licée in Mexico City and studied Philosophy at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

She migrated to Canada in 2000, then returned to México in 2009, where she lived in the town of Coatepec. She founded an unschooling project and a non-profit organization that promoted ecological and cultural awareness without barriers. She coordinated the planting of over 11,000 trees in a mist forest area. In 2017, due to mounting violence in the area, she decided to move back to Montreal.

Antolina´s last novel, Seda araña, won the First Mexican Woman´s Short Novel Competition in Mexico (2019), and was shortlisted for the prestigious Romulo Gallegos Literary prize in Venezuela (2020) and the Nadal Literary Competition in Spain (one of the most important in Spanish Literature). Her first and second novels received the José Eufemio Lora y Lora & Juan Carlos Onetti international award (in Peru, 2010). Her first published book was her social work thesis at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico, with a prologue by Elena Poniatowska; it sold over fifty thousand copies.


Beyond the Gallery: An Anthology of Visual Encounters
by Liuba Gonzalez de Armas, Ana Ruiz Aguirre
Published; October 10, 2021 by Laberinto Press
ISBN: 9781777085919