An­nie Pootoo­gook

INUIT ARTIST POOTOO­GOOK WINS $50,000 SOBEY ART AWARD

Prairie Fire - - NATALIE APPLETON -

My name is An­nie.

An­nie as a girl, her braids, smash­ing bot­tles out back

at the bed of her bedrid­den gran, draw­ing

re­mem­ber­ing

re­mem­ber­ing

the boy lick­ing clean his shiny white plas­tic plate

crumbs of Ritz crack­ers, the crumbs

al­ways those square tile floors, those clocks

clocks strikes her

eyes like hers in the re­flec­tion of the neon-lit

frozen aisle, its fish sticks and hun­gry mans

the used yel­low noose that failed his brother

re­mem­ber­ing

re­mem­ber­ing

the eighty-eight days she spent on that bed

beaten by two-by-fours, his words, I’ll kill

you when I get back. She found a win­dow, a way

the coloured pen­cils these scenes

they say, dif­fi­cult poignant pro­found

I can­not draw any­thing that I my­self did not ex­pe­ri­ence.

What she doesn’t draw what she doesn’t see

is An­nie, late nineties, that time be­tween

lay­ing over paper in Kin­ngait, the stu­dio

spirit in­sis­tent with her fin­gers, the ink

smug­gling love, light of the sun

days, all spring all coughy laugh­ter

like old women, like lul­la­bies

like a child, smil­ing

Our life is go­ing up and down.

Up and down. Happy. Not happy. Happy.

Not happy. That’s what I drew. Like that.

A REV­O­LU­TION­ARY INUIT ARTIST’S LIFE IM­I­TATES HER ART, DARKLY

Beer store un­locks the door, it be­gins

but she draws anyway, has to draw

I have to fol­low my grandma and my mom.

For money, for him, for the hunger

of the south, the north

the black-horned devil

who keeps her on her knees, strips

pricks the light right off her tongue, her heart

the man, no bet­ter

slaps An­nie around, kicks her

out, in bare feet, in snow, in all that dark

I had to go look for boots.

Down the street, an ex­hi­bi­tion

An­nie Pootoo­gook, An­nie the rev­o­lu­tion­ary

tal­ented bril­liant con­tem­po­rary Inuk artist

a north­ern star

tongue thick with drink on the side­walk

draw­ing boots and clocks, the black-jack­eted

jour­nal­ists who quizzed her when she won the Sobey

now stuff­ing cam­eras down her face, wrin­kled

red bloated dry still warm as the moon

nearer eighty she looks but she’s forty-three

and now,

now she’s ex­pect­ing

I want an apart­ment. I want to start draw­ing. Take care of the baby.

Things to turn around, the baby

comes at four in the morn­ing in a stall

at the Shep­herds of Good Hope shel­ter

on Mur­ray Street where the red lights

of the am­bu­lance cir­cle, pause

for the girl, early by a month three pounds

Na­pachie, for An­nie’s artist mother

I could go danc­ing.

The Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety finds Na­pachie

a fam­ily, a house soft-glit­tery

with Min­nie’s light-up ears

birth­day bal­loons, broth­ers, a sis­ter-cousin

who draws Na­pachie with her on a bridge

fish be­low blow­ing bub­bles up, up, up

turns four two days af­ter

INUIT ARTIST AN­NIE POOTOO­GOOK FOUND DEAD IN RIDEAU RIVER

An­nie, found wad­ing

in the wa­ter, 8:50 AM

po­lice say she drowned, who knows who knows

say it’s not sus­pi­cious

but her peo­ple know

no one walks into the wa­ter

They fly her bones

back across the bay, to the Cape

They find the last draw­ing, they think

sketched six months be­fore, An­nie

sit­ting sock feet crossed fin­gers

linked at her heart, curls

of light she called it In love

They’ll never for­get her

They’ll never for­get her

They’ll never for­get her

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