The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2021

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2021 Issue


29 October 2020 ·
Shared with Your friends

I said Bob you walked into
The kitchen
Just in time, there were irises
On the terrace and women
With parasols
Dreaming of dolls
Smashed on the rocks
At the end of the waves
With their white bonnets
there are elegant waiters
In Chinatown who will serve tea
And old Catalan comes in
To order chow mein
He wears a black beret and paints
The California missions
Life is stern
Your idea is a drawing
Fine lines
Hint of reception
Anger in truth
Shallow ponds by roadside
I said Bob
This is my letter
I send it by regular mail
The boy has placed a stamp
You rolled a cigarette
And struck a match
The room felt so small
Dim lit kitchen, flimsy table,
I’m drinking coffee
You blow smoke onto a horn
That resonates everywhere
No wonder you tap a finger
On the table,
Your girl friend
Shoots the stars, you guide her
To a secret chamber
Bob I’d like to say
You’ve drawn a line
The irises are handsome
They stand against time
No one can paint them
As well as they can
You see this and smile
Talent comes folded into nature
And will never be removed
When the Dante Hotel burned
You came to stay with me
And the black princess
Of New Orleans, you were
Through cold nights
We read aloud
From treacherous books
And through memory
Music then is failing
To connect the dots, feeling
Flees, sound bleeds
All over form, and you can
Forget content
You know what I mean
As fame dapples
Onto leaves and jazz magicians
Sue for tranquility
The muse loves to dance
On old recordings, do flow,
So slow, cast a net, feed
The animals, rapid fire,
Boom! bang! More we dare not
Ask, piece a poet
Out of bone, write in stone
Come home
To your ashes spread
On a sallow day
Forgive you I will
As I must honor the bleak
Necessities and read the words
Of Lorca and touch
Those keys on Monk’s piano
Such spirit is endless
Forget never forget, cut
Some heather, keep it in
An earthen jar, knit a knot
Morning dew, sprinkle
Words on the placid bay water
Where a sailboat catches up
With a seagull in Raccoon Straits
We were enlightened
By sentences that grew out
Of our sea voyages, we saw
Hart Crane go overboard,
We waited at the bottom
Of the sea for mermaids
Dressed in silk, we drank whisky
At Li Po in Chinatown
Down a gated highway
Of the phosphorescent moo

No, Buddha

Please explain
Who suffers more than
I do, tell me
Why the planet bleeds,
Why mothers
Lose hope, why daughters
Go astray, explain
Why you are beyond
Self expression, may I refuse
To walk at your side
In the deer park? Hunger
Hangs in the air, thirst
Cuts us down, lack of love
Blooms like a marigold plant
On temple grounds, no
Buddha, I refuse the Diamond
Sutra, I do not wish for
The Heart Sutra, no, no, leave
The grass alone, please
Be swift, poison
The air, make the sun
Into a monster
To pin on your chest,
Move the moon
To a cave, call on
Zarathustra to pick
Wildflowers on his arid
Mountainside, may Milarepa
Praise the solitary monk
Of Rumor

NO! Leave me to the
Quiet trees planted thirty
Years ago, NO! May I be granted
More suffering words to plank
On the table, NO My lord of Mercy,
Trap us into divine retribution

Buddha, you set my youth
On fire, I rattled bones and
Plucked a lyre, sweet are
Your tricks, you who recline
And shut your eyes, go straight
To the gates of hell, push the
Morning dove into the stream

Oh NO, dear father of
Compassion, all is suffering, all
Has been ore-ordained, YES
We loathe the flaming solitude
Borne from wheel to wheel, man
Is only a stepping-stone, we
Will practice our acceptance on
The carnival grounds, base our
Visions on the killing fields, you
explain nothing in this glittering
Realm from which no escape
Is possible

Nov 22 1997

Global Affairs

that volcano poured lava
into my mouth

at 3 a m, at 630 a m
the sky clouded over

by 730 we were driving
back to the city

days bounce, ambition
frazzles, what good are you

when the leader blesses
the sky? how about murdering

the last wild orangutangs
and planting marihuana?

what about Elizabeth Taylor
on the operating table?

we visited the jade museum,
the gold museum, and

the butterflies, we are in
the jungle on a field of cow shit

so we could see ground sloths
and a bunch of lizards

try making a newer world to replace
the old one

feed bananas to monkey
at the seaside resort

eat an irish lunch and
lay wreath for william yeats

Mayakovsky remains
a dancer in the dream

musk ox in snow field
dying geography

hold on, prepare myth,
call for purpose and clarity

March 6, 2021

memory’s river

does the brain send life
to another invention?
are we allowed to live on
in a sphere of salt?

excuse me, but memory’s
river is sure to overflow
an after-life
be damned, the brain
contains, the rivet flows,
it goes south to bayous of

the brain becomes a river,
God and his fathers float by
on a raft, Jim and Huck
flee the demons, Thelonius
pounds ivory hamnets
and it’s still a long path
to suicide prevention

the river demands,
every nook and
deepens our story,
brain drain, brain rain,
the wise current
properly insane,
pleasure and pain
Embrace in the dark,
Buddha waits in the
park, memories
pray for an extension

Rain Dog

How does your mind escape the rain?

I wonder about what comes around
When we’re drenched at a bus stop
In San Cristobal, and why the locals
Stare without mercy, they pick up stones
But soon I’m under an overhead fan
While thunder skateboards
Across the sky like a tall and thin
16 year old, I begin vomiting, the hotel
Owner shows up with his wife,
they change the sheets and mop the floor,
They bring hot tea, my hands tremble
The rain falls under my eyelids
I write, “poet” on the wall of my lips

Thank you, amigos, thank you
For God and the romantic communism
Of the upper middle class,
Gracias, friends, memory is a c
On the floor, my chest floods,
Emiliano Zapata rides red dust
To applause of the oppressed

How do you allow the hideous rain
To inundate your soul?

The bus is Flecha Amarilla, it belches
In aristocratic style and delivers us
From evil, for thine is a kingdom of
Mescal and corn tortillas if you pay
Attention, Rain Dog howls at two a.m,
A highway in the Sonoran Desert,
I bring him from a backyard breeder
In the border town of Tijuana

The rain will not cease, it causes
Misery, every yard fills with mud,
Rain Dog loves Moon Dog, I fall asleep
In the afternoon shower, Rain Dog
Whimpers ever so slightly and tightens
The bond between man and animal

For F\\

De Kooning
 In memory of Herman Cherry

1970 he offered
His studio, “it’s $135
A month, “he said.
“It’s all yours if
you want it,”.
He poured more whiskey
And drank happily.

Down on Mercer Street
We heard clanging
Of garbage bins.

I tried looking
Deep into his eyes,
Painter, great and stormy
Womanizer, ordained
By academies of rigor
And Northern Light,
“I knew how to play the game,
Herman didn’t.”

He liked that I saw a Van Gogh
Exhibition next-door
To the dinosaurs in
our old museum back home
Back when Eisenhower

He told me my uncle
Was a rare painter

He even met
my grandmother
With paint
On his mind.

He was going to visit
His mother in
The Netherlands
And receive an award
From the king himself.

In his last paintings
De Kooning found
Illuminating windows
To lyrically pry open
Doors of the catacombs

An old man’s grace.

I should’ve taken
Him up on the offer.

I was intimidated
By heavy traffic
Subway rattle

Typing test
On the 14th floor

Shit-eating job
At Doubleday
Bookstore taking
Phone orders

Heading west, stopping
In a snowstorm
For beer, burger,
And bag of chips

In De Kooning
The last canvas raises
A yellow
Bar as far as
Silence stretches
Over the red ribbons
Of an enlightened

Another shot
Of whiskey
If you please


Neeli Cherkovski

Neeli Cherkovski’s recent poetry collections are hang onto the Yangtze River, and elegy for my beat generation. His biography of Charles Bukowski was recently published in a new edition by David Godine, and he is completing a new addition of his biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He is also working on a book of poetry profiles, multitudes and his memoir, hyper. He lives in San Francisco.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2021

All Issues