Smuggled over the border
in the throat of slaves
hummed loose in the fields
as soft as cotton balls.
Stuffed into saxophones
and blown out
time and again
on fountains of air.
Captured and hung on lines
dripping with black notes.
Brought into concert halls
dressed up in tuxedos
bouncing off the walls
drowned in a red curtain call.
In the cockpit surrounded by a thousand blinking lights
he revs up the engine until music shoots out from pipes
like exhaust fumes that fill the stained-glass hangar
crowded with souls, raptured
as the nimble pilot abandons his dotted map
and improvises us into virgin territory.
—from a series of Monthly Notes that explores music, curated by Jared Pearce
Who the hell was Nanook of the North? My landlord from Brooklyn who I used to really like a lot used to always call me Nanook of the North, but who was he to talk? An out of control alcoholic who every Saturday night like clockwork a whole squad of squad cars would just show up to their brownstone because of some brand new drama, which of course he denied because used to always black-out and then the next day you’d see the whole holy family parade over for confession, like some procession of demented Norman Rockwell paintings; his son eternally out of work working the system for quote on quote disability and every evening literally hearing him throwing his wife and kid around sounding like the sound of half-crazed Eskimo madmen in an igloo of linoleum as all you’d hear is the trail of back and forth insane echoes; his daughter whose husband got whacked by La Cosa-Nostra and every time I showed up to pay the rent was conveniently wrapped in her towel just coming out of the shower, asking if I wanted to come in which I really wanted but didn’t want to become the next victim, although in the past had sincerely gone out with my fair share of Mafia Princesses mostly from Hell’s Kitchen and always touch and go situations; grandson, a dope addict doing inside jobs stealing shit right and left to support his habit, and myself literally having to drag this old timer out by his ankles into the hall after he had passed-out from the heat fixing a leaky faucet in my apartment ranting and referring to everyone as a hippie and had hair far shorter than his, but irrelevant as in his reality was convinced, and honestly found there to be something quite charming even lovable about him always appearing to slur his words whether drunk or sober, and just seemed to add character to the neighborhood, referring to me as that cat Nanook of the North which I took for something of a compliment.
Grandpa had been hopeful when he boarded the freighter, but by the end of the journey he had decided that no matter how terrible things had been in Rumania, they were going to get worse. All the positive things about America he’d been told had been lies.
All he had was some salted meat, a change of clothes and his childhood menorah, crusted over with old candle wax, looking evil. The young woman who would become my grandmother cleaned it, spit on it and polished it up. My grandfather’s hope was rekindled. He broke down and cried.
After Hurricane Isaac tore my house from its pilings and washed it away, I went down to the beach to ponder my future. There I found twenty-thousand nutria, their fat rat bodies drowned, dead, and stinking.
In that manner, God showed me the way.
I had a sudden craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I resolved to walk and keep walking until I found one. There I would stop and build my church.
I stand on your back porch smoking watching
your laundry hang from the line. White dress shirt,
shoulders pinched by clothespins like a cat
carries a kitten. It is so much bigger than you are
now, buffed up by breezes slapping innards
and fucking with my cigarette smoke.
An arm whips around in what I thought
looked like a wave but now two sleeves
billowing an X. Your new straight jacket.
A ghost caught between two winds
not haunting anything, anyone
would think it a nice piece of clothing.
A time-lapse video showing the process of Erica Elan Ciganek painting “Miriam: Through the Parting” (oil on MDF, 49" x 36", 2015). The song, “Draw Up the Sun”, is by Ryan Ciganek and features the band Sombra (Adam Nelson, Maggie Hubbard, Erica, Ryan).
Morning throttles Jax’s motor,
lowers her frost skirt for him,
if someone else’s bride. Let Lambs work their way up class ladders with Starter hats and Nikes, he
thinks when Colleen clicks past
ignoring catcalls, heels snapping concrete,
a jar of maraschino cherries jiggling, ready
to be tossed into her Alka-Seltzer
before she drops wasp-waisted onto the
stage apron, owing nothing to no man
and off all day tomorrow.