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.
My husband calls me the “energizer bunny,” says my hummingbird metabolism matches my bird-brittle frame, says what I call my low-energy days are more animated than his at top speed, even though when we met, our youth behind us, I’d slowed down to a mellower pace, and we’re yin and yang now, we balance each other, but thirty years ago we’d have been oil and water—“You shoulda seen me then,” I say and tell him about my younger self, a scrawny kid, my worried parents thought me frail and undernourished in spite of my voracious appetite and boundless energy, so my mother would pack two overstuffed sandwiches in my lunch with chips, fruit and cookies, and after school she’d make milkshakes with eggs and banana plus a PBJ or two to fatten me up, but I would eat and eat and not gain an ounce, and that was still true at thirty when a boyfriend told me I’d be sexier, more attractive if I put on a few pounds; he found no fault at first, but soon started carping about one thing or another, like—it should have been a warning—when I said I wasn’t a good dancer but he sweet-talked me onto the floor and I waited for praise, however false—come on, flatter me—but “You’re a terrible dancer,” he said, “stiff as a board, lighten up,” and I slithered away humiliated, but when he said, “You should wear more makeup,” I did—pathetic, huh?—and his reproach followed me into the bedroom until finally I’d had enough of his verbal battering, but at least I never tried to gain weight for him, and in fact the stress of the weeks and months as the relationship ground down caused me to lose weight, “ha, that’ll show him,” I thought, and after we split, the taut strings of my psyche loosened and I relaxed and gained a few pounds, and when I ran into him months later he noticed and said something grudgingly complimentary, and I smirked, I said yes, it’s amazing what being happy can do for a girl’s figure, and while I’m older and happier now I still move quickly and stay trim though I work at it now, stop eating before I’m full, because I can still put it away. Like a hummingbird.
Did you know that hummingbirds consume more than their weight in nectar each day but are always mere hours away from starving to death since they store just enough energy to survive overnight, so they visit hundreds of flowers daily and remember all the flowers, all the feeders in their territory, eating for short spells seven times an hour yet spending only fifteen percent of their time feeding and the rest of it digesting and maybe, like me, planning and thinking about and tracking down the next meal, the next sip of fuchsia or slice of pizza.