Featured poet: Neeli Cherkovski

CITY IN FOG

                  For Richard Irwin

 

this poor boy lived

and died in an iron lung, his body

draped over the window

on Filbert Street, a punk

 

his body captive, his eyes

brought down to this white mantle

of snow in a ward for men

dying in a year of plague, a punk poet

 

and keen eyed observer of

the quick-moving, silent skies

voted into office long ago, long

 

before we wept alone on the

steps of city hall and in the nave

of the library, fondling card catalogue

paper oblong silken threads

 

we held hands and giggled like

school boys, up and down

cold-bound hills, past Queen Anne

and Queen Victoria

 

I am a poor boy unloved

in the city, Irwin hangs on to life

at the beautiful medical center

where music and eucalyptus caress

 

before a multitude of anonymous

birds, it has come to one last night

of clinging, breathing, believing

before the bellicose cosmology

 

lays a hand and takes

the suffering boy to metaphysical

drawing rooms where herds of elephants

follow an ancient trail

 

through the neighborhoods, over sleek

ridges disturbed only by clamoring

cable car bells on loud

tracks , his eyes are shut, he has

no further light, we stand over

his body, I thought of us

trying to be warm -- watching Godzilla

on my television screen

 

then we’d awaken to the buzz

on Grant Avenue’s quaint bohemia

shrouded in the weather, stretching to China’s

Great Wall and bolting to sunlight

 

untroubled

 

 

 

 

  

CARRY THE SUN

 

carry the  sun

along the shoreline

until cliffs

offers no room

and the surf rises

 

no other way

but this one

 

no way out

 

do not try to avoid

the dark woods, they are

splendid

 

cross an angry

crucible

and circle the cenotaph

 

the sun turns

into a block of ice

and men

fall into disrepair

 

the sun performs

rope tricks

for a crowd of carnival

folks and for handy dandy

diners at the local cafe

 

the sun is a

black widow spider

on the windowsill

looking out

at a fog bank

 

people wade

in the light

splashing their

desire

down to the tomb

of the tides

 

 

 

 

 

THE FULL MOON

 

the full moon spits

and shines, it rings your doorbell

and hides, the moon amuses

a black panther as it shines

for the darker regions of the woods

 

it bolts over outcroppings of sedimentary

rock, the full moon

has haunted Chinese poets

who drink fine wine

from wooden bowls

while it is raining

the moon hides in Shakespeare’s

plays, it heightens his verse

and has a role in modern music

 

I believe there are places on the moon

where musicians have played the lute

and beat the drums

 

I am amused by the classic illumination

of the full moon

and how it covers a copy of the “New York Times”

through the Venetian blinds

a low narrow light

that has no true beginning or end

 

 

  

 

 

PRIMITIVE NOTEBOOK

 

this morning voices come from the grass

funny and odd voices

all those boys who played table shuffleboard

in JOE’S BAR on the north side of town

those boys tumble down five decades

 

they are sweet as I remember

kind and dumb

some feasted on brandy

others drank only beer

 

**

 

Joe wipes the bar

he complains

no money no love no dreams

no good fortune at hand

“My brother made a million bucks

writing bad novels”

 

the puck slides

song are wrenched

out of the wetlands far

to the south, down by the air base

soon to shut

 

**

 

there were little men

on a little world of wood and ice

who built toboggans for the winter

and straw hats in summer

and lean tents al year long

 

**

 

the revolutionary

fled into the mountains

hoping to re-connect

with the scent of pine

and futile wind

coming from the sky

 

he was eventually

cornered and butchered

by a million machetes

then placed on display

like a dead Christ

 

**

 

you left the animal

alone in the woods

so you might open

a gallery of art

in the darker forest

this is why

you deal in evil

and will never believe

in anything better

than a distant wailing

from the mirror

 

**

 

the aged leader

fell into his belief

as a man might fall

into a deep hole

on the slope

of a volcano

about to explode

 

**

 

we are aware

of meadows and

pristine mountain lakes

drawn over the cave walls

in our bodies

we drive there

in the late afternoon

as the sun

quietly evacuates

and we feel free enough

to go even deeper

past the arcades

and words

 

**

 

do come

and be one

sound

in the current

do come

and sound

one song

for the duration

 

**

 

packs of men

in a dying city, dead

librarians stacked

on the steps

at 42nd Street

 

stone and

bone

 

**

 

he slept

smiling as if

hope had taken hold

and joy lay

in the fork of the road

 

but he never knew

that smile

 

**

 

from the other soldiers

taunts and jeers

until someone waved a flag

and the tarmac

filled up with bodies

wrapped in wood

 

**

 

in the Kaaba a ticking bomb

 

**

 

childhood cries

in the deep grass, old men

whittle wood, ancient spirits

are blown away

like paper cranes

 

 

 

 

  

HISTORICAL NOTES

 

in the cellars of the museum

are medieval pediments, you

may step down carefully

 

in the Verona restaurant

we find secret tunnels leading

to the remains of the Roman town

 

in the catacombs we feel

terrible, and find it difficult to wait

for the tour to end

 

in the great cathedral

we see angels in the nave

strumming on golden harps

 

in the mountains we find

sequoia trees as old as are

the Roman ruins

 

everywhere deadly forces

are at work, no one goes inside

without finally stepping

into the jaw of a monster

 

forward or backward

the coal burns slowly,

fossil fuels eat the sky

 

the old woman hands out

bread and pours wine, the

old man takes your money

cold wind rattles your spine

men are dizzy with the speed of time