Ten Poems by Neeli Cherkovski

I got old honey she said
as the wind whipped in from the sea
and the crossing guard held one hand up
against murder and deceit
I got old and there's nothing to be done
my feet hurt
the ladies talk about each other
I don't like it here
I want to go back to my old place
we drove her home to her place by the ocean
as trams ran down from the sun
and pieces of death pocked the streetcorners
and the policeman stood like a prison camp guard
against burnt pilings of Ocean Park Pier

there was a blind man in a three wheeled cart
who sat there for fifty nine years
selling mechanical monkeys
my mother bought one when she was a child
and I had one too that my grandmother bought
I thought of the monkey with hairy red arms
and red plastic eyes as I helped her onto the elevator

I got old honey she said
my father threw coins to the poor people
he had a mill in Russia
and when it snowed we wore big coats
and played in the drifts
but I got old
I had a hard life
nobody helped me
be good to your father
get married
have children
and save your money

and then she was in a 'home'
out in the valley
first in her own room
then in a shared room
finally she lay strapped to a bed
in a dormitory

this is your Russian girl
who learned her lessons well
and dreamed of America
a Goldenah Medinah
and here is death and life
darkness, light
the good inclination
and a string of evil beads

this is your son
and here is your daughter-in-law
this is your grandson
your granddaughter
your great grandchildren
but she had forgotten us
and lay there motionless
and the wind whipped in from the sea