Monday, February 19, 2007


by Neeli Cherkovski

Jack Kerouac stayed in the old cabin
further down the path, fleeing booze and fame,
he wrote BIG SUR, a chorus in shadow. . .

now I burrow here in a sleeping bag
thinking of the early shade that covers
the Bixby world, it is a splendor
to gather wood, to make a fire, sit
before crackling flames, meditating long
hours, boiling hot water, pouring in
ground coffee, drinking slowly, rich scalding
brew, so like nobody, so intertwined
with the woods, so lofty, woodsman now

later, alone in the Buddhist cabin
at Bixby Creek, quietly attuned to
a hummingbird and big coastal spirit,
mind abloom, reading Rilke’s aging song,
relieved to find a European poet
for my coastal California reading. . .
thoughts of angels above my mind, blazing,
beautiful leopards leaping, lean, angel
birds trilling, Ferlinghetti’s lamp ablaze,
his cabin filled with shadows. I am sad
for my happiness, Rilke’s elegies
are grass-blown, wind carved, funny, somberly
set for the visionary night soon to come
crashing on my eyes, what terrible truths come
around the shoulder-hill to heart strewn hillside,
oh Rainer Maria Rilke, your name
spills off my brain, I watch your poem dance
from the German to the English, I wish
your words were nailed to my spirit, so torn
am I in this California fog, so borne
by nearby waves, so good in fallen sun,
end the poem, call the birds, bring leopards,
listen to the redwood, hear the oak, bring
the elder, say the unspoken name, go
dive in the sky, fight no ocean mind, sit
facing the double door, this is your time,
you sit here in meditation, but where
is the telephone? call your German friend
by his true name, give him a redwood name,
break down the door, slam the window shut, laugh,
run to the end of the elegy, so lean
are these words, so unmistakable
the calling, yearning, desire, o love
you are so me, so me hopeless, you talk
only of yourself, you see only your eyes
in the mirror of the stream, o dreamer, dream
Rilke advised, you must change your life, what?
so easy to say, so difficult, yet
a fine thought to throw onto the ocean

down at the beach, real
waves, a door in one of them,
two clouds on the air

back up the canyon
a woman clips the underbrush,
wise, wily, alone

in her mind the trees
are sensate, in real life, too,
twin birds fleeing night

far back, up a road
old man silence screams a song,
so long roadrunner

woodpecker, sparrow,
finch, chipmunk, who ever knows?
Buddha in beach clothes

goodnight, she says, we pass,
the cabin has no key, so?
rat dances in the woods

morning light bounces
off the cabin’s simple walls,
hummingbird, stand still

a morning fire
makes our coffee doubly sweet.
hot coals, words and names

Leaves of Grass sitting
with the morning biscuits, wows!
imagine the sun

before the sun goes down I walk to see
how the surf is doing, worried,
wondering what words to jot quickly
as a potion, how to measure fear
of failure, fear of saying
too much or not enough, why
bother thinking one way or another?
the sea will speak, waves
will desire an eternal return
until they desire
no more

walking to the beach
across thee creek back over it,
across again, down
into the muck and mud, bushes brush
my skin, trees lumber
overhead, the earth turns and twists,
shades are grey and ochre, umber and
burnt green, then
the great Bixby bridge looms, its physical
a concrete and steel
contraption, marvelous
engineering to fit
the coast so highway one
proceeds north or south, remains
in place, a ribbon of dharma

the beach reaches my nose
before it enters the eyes, I smell the
rich antiquity, noises from the water
follow, loud crush and crash, easy breeze
voices, a cawing
gull, someone up above yelling out
good morning, the bric
and brac of land and man

the tidal pond has been
redesigned by the seven seas, it has
a small canal leading
to the open sea, my face is
a ripple in the murk, a few sand grasses
cling to the side of the
still water, easy to sense
a nighttime storm, pick up
a branch and make a happy face
before throwing’
the branch in the pond so it might float
to the other side

sea roar,
the clouds are whispering
for rain, I linger
an hour or more, Rilke waits
back at the cabin, I’ll make
tuna sandwich for lunch and
hot chocolate, maybe hike up the road
tot he tall redwoods and circle round
the next canyon over
even if it rains

or simply breath
indoors, go into the Buddha hut
once more with its
floor mat, sit like a
real practitioner, or
lie there reciting from
Ferl’s copy of Leaves,
"A child asked, What is
the grass?" and I am asking
who is out there
in the wild
alive and

Neeli Cherkovski
Nov. 29, 2006

1 comment:

Don Stabler said...

Meditations is great poetry. what a beautiful place to read Rilke!