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.
“Ars Poetica” is a poem in six parts. To read the complete poem, click here.
I stand on your back porch smoking watching
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).
I step down from my throne
Morning throttles Jax’s motor,
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.
A pot of tea steeping
Sunrise on the counter
All is settled then, the man
beside the sink, thinking of every