Ten Poems by Neeli Cherkovski

where do you hide?
underneath the camelia
sideways to the house?

my fantastic playmates
remain, their lungs are filled
with ravens, their throats
choked with red dust
and metallic letters, they want a
testament of body bags
and military bands

snow obliterates
the horizon

dancers dance
their two step dance
across a bleeding floor

ghosts perform magic tricks
with matchbook
covers, girls play skip-rope
near to the tombstones

can you hide
on a map? I trace
each country one by
one, the former
Soviet Union
and the Malagasy
Republic, save me
from one country that
doesn't understand
how to hammer down
exquisite childhood fantasies

there's a dirigible
in the living room, a
hydrogen bomb
in the kitchen, a
naked boy in my bed
reading from a book
of extravagant geography

I'm nailed to our house, I've come
home, the door is wide open, a
red candle burns on the coffee table

a flawed ceiling
weeps tears, so many cats and
so many dogs, late
night backyard dedications
and sweet darkness embroidered
onto the fame of obscurity, turn
the wreck into a microchip

one wrong turn desires to bleed on
a familiar floor, the old
dog is older, the matriarch
of Hungarian restaurants and
salty apartment buildings
has become a queen in paradise
former queen of a world war
left in the wreckage

spin your sorrow
like a long-playing record deep
grooves of the
prairies, your
Lewis and Clark
expeditions, your
Manifest Destiny
and the era of
rock and roll

no use to complain, the
cupboards are
full of canned goods
and we're joining the
American Chest, my
boy scout shirt
is gently pressed

it's an ordinary house
on a dead end street
in both directions
bordering a wash
in the backyard
many trees, two peach
one plum, one lemon, two
walnut, one elm, an ash
a palm and
pomegranate, also
a wire fence
and a brick wall, an inner
courtyard and
an outer one

I have
come home to
see my mother
on the phone again, my
father in the living
room watching TV or
unfolding a
newspaper or
reading a book, two dogs
curled up
near to Depression Era

the hour
looks like me
I shake it
loose, the theater
opens, people
see my house, a
most ordinary house,
three doors
onto the patio
and to the ash
tree, a small
garden built of
rock and dirt, a
palm tree
growing large
enough to crack
the white stone
wall, overhead
an old moon
spells out the true
meaning of
our light

we are told to remain
intact even as
events around us
deny the orders and
rafters unseen
begin to weaken, the
foundation wobbles

very ordinary

the lives we lead are
of interest only to our-
selves, most regular, surely
not mysterious, moonlight
and garden light it's
a convocation of remembered
sunlight into which we have

go on living
yellow stucco house

sensuous lips float above us
in the sky, our mountains
hold snow and robins, our
distances melt, the
language has its own body,
letters feel
silken, glossy, where's the
real conversation? might I
hide on a map? do these
boundaries mean