top of page

Neeli Cherkovski: California Poets Part 4, Three Poems

Neeli Cherkovski

December 29th, 2021

California Poets: Part IV

Neeli Cherkovski

Three Poems

There There we go The two of us Driving to the Apple Orchards In the foothills Two days after the Kennedy Assassination, that would be 1963 me and my older Friend, unemployed roofer Who steals lyrics From Hank Williams and plays Is balalaika while drinking Cheap wine, Vince, yes, Ohio born, father a steel worker, Vince served under George Patton, we drink Red Mountain burgundy from plastic cups under the dark shelter of the apple trees night happy to shine on us. Lad He Called me, one half gallon Gone pure rotgut In the In the orchard Of an era that now seems Innocent but was hardly so Vince died 25 years ago In a back room at Margaret’s House on Arrowhead Avenue I moved north And ate magic mushrooms Under the currents Of Raccoon Straits I try to tell Vince How beautiful my life Has been, how clearly I am learning how to believe That the entire Dream has been worthwhile Lad he says What about all those Wars and missed Opportunities? I said Sure you have To wonder, you needn’t Judge, just fold The light of truth And doubt around Your shoulders In the empty night Long ago

Rain The rain clouds are hypnotic If you sit and listen I see from three windows The one hard fact Forget everything else Play for exhaled time Prey on old poems Plan for the future Think of jazz back home Coming from plastic radios Rhythms of Norman Tall and lanky Drawing pen and ink Drinking Primitivo Coltrane Parker Monk A trinity of sorts Norman draws Moses On Sinai talking to a firework Then he puts down his pen To follow the Music Monk is on a roll, Listen as the keys Fall like rain, look Memory straight in The face, poor Norman Died in the State Hospital Wrapped in a robe With red sash I watch the rain outside And the clouds

Form In back of form We find the official Reason, in the heat We hear Turmoil of distant Climes, men are Sure of their Survival, form Over form, travel To your self In a crowded cabin A few men cross the room In search of solitude The kind found In a virgin forest Long ago, how Does it sound? Silence On top of silence? Follow the herd Until they are no Forms, no words To speak of, no proof of Any sort to offer Stay solid in back Of form, dare you Blockade the vast Reindeer herd? Are you hearing The heat? Form will fade And pretend As it vanishes, Men will be captive To the circles Squares and Triangles, some May Ask, “what is Found” oh shade Without substance, A strange straight line Struggles and Is born

Author Bio:

Neeli Cherkovski was born in Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles State College (now Cal State Los Angeles). He is the author of many books of poetry, including Animal (1996), Leaning Against Time (2005), From the Canyon Outward (2009), and The Crow and I (2015). He is the coeditor of Anthology of L.A. Poets (with Charles Bukowski), Cross-Strokes: Poetry between Los Angeles and San Francisco (with Bill Mohr), and Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman (with Raymond Foye and Tate Swindell). He has also published bilingual editions in Austria, Mexico, and Italy. A facsimile edition of one of his notebooks was published by Viviani Edizione in Verona, Italy. Cherkovski also wrote biographies of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski, as well as the critical memoir Whitman’s Wild Children (1988). His papers are held at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Cherkovski received the 2017 Jack Mueller Poetry Prize awarded at the Jack Mueller Festival in Fruita, Colorado. He has lived in San Francisco since 1974.


bottom of page