Ten Poems by Neeli Cherkovski

inexhaustible candles spin off
from eyes of an old man picking
at ripe oranges, take one orange
fondle another, listen
to civil commentators, take three
hear simple death
throughout common time

juicy oranges, bright red candles
old green wax, fabulous cake candle
old lady prayer candle
candle for the goddess, candle
to burn in a poor man's mouth
when he's tending the garden
of a wealthy assassin and night
blooms like an iris

grandmother, your candle
has caught fire, tend to our Lord
who resides in the exhausted chamber
where ancient beasts of burden
rise over burnt ridges, women
of Tehuantepec sit regally on buses

a Roman candle thrown
into fierce early wind
a grave-looking bird
perched over the rim of our hotel
snap a stem, desire embraces desire
come lick the universe and recoil

awesome, the candles burn
candles continue to burn
during the dinner hour, especially
in elegant dining rooms and
in lobbies of the fine hotels

candleman comes, candle-maker
plays chess with his neighbor the butcher
horse and cow demand attention during
candle lighting ceremonies, harmonious
dreamers congregate beneath a fall of
hot wax, serpent sends a message
to the heart of a flame, you are simply
a finger of lava rising, a lamp
foraging through regions hidden behind the veil
a wail of words, a cauldron bubbling over

hear children in a courtyard
pretend these fingers of wax
will populate the green temple
disappear into a rat's palace
silent municipal galleries and museums
ridges of flesh against a model
of the city in Pre-Columbian time

old men remember songs
sung by ordinary beautiful queens
on silver-ridged balconies, the real truth
not an approximation, reeling
rolling embers taken from the flames
held by candle-maker who ponders
a chess move, embraced by his child
who has adoring fire-eyes and wants to be
an orchestra behind the moonıs old lake