Sunday, November 19, 2006


For Gerald Locklin

Hank, you were right
to hold the city between yr. teeth
and shake it

I know that now, learning
on the drive down last month
to speak at the library
where they house yr. archive

I had things to say
about the ease
of yr. being, I guess
the curator knew the worst I could say
is that the land swelled within
your grasp, the dark sea
of protest calmed within
a wide understanding that deepens
the divide between us,

yr. land of sexy blondes and
tough men with rotten teeth
watering their lawns, yr. landlady
blues, yr. leaking sink, Hemingway
in the bathtub

I saw the hills divide into
sections, thigh and breast, leg
and neck, torso and
shoulder, the highway spun
our sorrow, would we find the museum
on time? do they want me to read a poem
in yr. honor? answer questions?

we inched uphill
past the century plants and
dry mesquite
knowing that the land would flatten
into the great, grave-minded basin

but truly
you and I drank the sober drafts
of sultry summer back in 68’ and 69’
while our soldiers
fielded Vietnam

we’d storm through
the beatitudes, I wanted yr.
self-assurance, yr. grip, time
pulled me into the roaring asphalt
and dragged you to the heights

this is today and
today feels like nowhere
except everything, I see Linda, yr
love, we embrace, we walk
together through long halls, “here
are the smoking ruins of
Jack London and this
is the Ellesmere Chaucer,” imagine,
down a narrow passage to a door
with a security timer, and into a room
where the manuscripts of Charles Bukowski
await the curator’s hand

theft is an issue at the Huntington Library
and Gardens, even scholars have larceny
secreted in their nimble fingers, touching
a Coleridge notebook, leafing through
a Shakespeare folio, now leaping
onto the backside of Bukowski

yeah, Hank,
I love you, I hate, I love, I
climb the dais with a microphone in my lapel
so the answers I give
will rise like condors
over the far distant mountains that somberly
push my old city
into its shadowy grave

I tell them to think of palm trees
and unending boulevards, to regard
the end as a beginning,
to forgive themselves
for the empty pages
of their own design

you might have been proud
of what I said and
how I spoke with such authority
in the grim business

driving home was
largely uneventful, they
sent a letter of thanks
and invited me to soar
over the Basin one last time

with/without you,
alive and alone

Neeli Cheerkovski
30 Oct 06


Gianmarco Sanguedolce said...

Where did you find this Cherkovski poem?

Bruce Hodder said...

I requested it from Neeli. It's good, isn't it?