the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




THREE WORKS
BY NEELI CHERKOVSKI

AN ESSAY ON "THE WORD"
For Kirby Doyle

The Word is yours said Milarepa enduring Snow Mountain
The Word is mind spoke Buddha under the Bodhi Tree
My Word whispered Dante in exile
I am the Word mused Walt Whitman crossing Brooklyn Ferry
True Words wrote Emily Dickinson on great streets of silence
Every Word flies chanted the Ethiopian seer
Heraclitus said He knows the word but does not know it
He is the Word but cannot see it
He feels the Word but will never speak it
He sings the Word yet he will never taste it
He whirls, He spins, He falls, He rises
He goes down and up because He understands
that up is down, down is up, small is better
than impossible, but the word clings
breezes come out of the stucco skin
of the neighborhood
awful word, He knows it, too, He
feels it at night when He lies down to sleep
terrible wound of windows, the word clings
to me like a cold wind in the morning
walking on familiar streets
before the workday begins

===============

THE LIBRARY IN BAGDAD

where words fall
and cannot get up again

where sentences struggle
to rise but they fail

where the wind howls over
long stretches of silence

so much anger, so many pathways
to the same icy tomb

death reigns
in the catalogue room, death
wanders down the dank hallways
until it goes up in flames, death
is wider than we are, more
supple, able to leap across space,

death is a book, a chapter, a sentence
a word, a single letter, a dot
of dust or gold, it is cold
and very hot, death burns
and turns to water, what a grave-faced librarian
death can be, it takes down
the general and the banker, it smiles
into the mirror until the mirror cracks

open any page
in the library after the walls
turn to ash
and crumble, what stories and
what law, what poetry and
philosophic thought, what deep yearning
and surface dialogue, how
long must we wait
until we are ashen like the
memory of the book
of being over here and over there?

===============

FOR CUBA, FOR FREEDOM

Every afternoon in Havana
Federico rises
Every afternoon in Havana
the trees raise their arms
to the sun
and pray for the freedom
all trees yearn for
Every afternoon in Havana
Ruben rises
the birds circle over the prison
where Federico and Ruben
languish, imprisoned
by the Great Leader
who only rises
when the trees lie down
for the night

how many words
are shackled
in the stone fortress
of the Great Leaderšs
heart? how many worlds
circle in the poems
novels, short stories
and unspeakable visions
he will not tolerate
when the trees rise
and the birds
circle?

===============

NATURAL SURREALISM
For Sally Larsen

One

Water spirits conspire, canyon gods confer
death gods speak to the goddess of forest music
at the end of a magic wand held tightly

branches lean on pale green soundings
of time, time reveals every unimaginable portal
to the garden where desire first came into bloom

the artist captures all of the darkness, much of the light
bending them together then watches as they
struggle to fall apart (the first witness

to what creation creates) and, like any seeker
after color the tones follow undulating curves
under the surface of what seems to be seen

rockforms, plantlives, animaldreams, the movement
of a human body in the way a panther climbs
within the dream, particles of being unattached

to color, yet wholly dependent
on the striving to see how colors collide
or harmonize, to feel the shape order takes

in the chaotic moment of movement, the hand, the brush
the surface on which the paint is torn into concision
consider blue becalming black or ochre turned umber

think of green in its myriad manifestations, or
one singular blast of emptiness turned to unwritten
elements, here the shape of color travels

Two

the studio reveals cactus, ferns, delicate leaves and
sunlight traveling across concrete
and objects we cannot seize with the eye

the mind found the creative moment
in the emulation of animals leaping
or simply standing at peace, the artist found

a chamber where desire glimmers, white
red, green, blue, deep blue, dark ochre, the mind
of antique ochre, pits where the miners picked

at reddish soil, bringing to daylight
what glows in the soul, rich red rivers
out of the "sound" of man and animal

green dominions, cadmium zones half-
light and measured spaces that break off
to float beyond our ability to known

Three

one single stroke
of the brush ignites elegance and
dreamless time

the eye and the "I" of nature
bushes, trees, shadows, shade, sunlight
rock, dust, ash, ruins

dawn is cornered as branches rise
out of the brain

the door of paint open wide enough
for a conversation with collapsing color

we prove surrealism by not even thinking
it can exist, by extending it everywhere
as an act like rising in the morning, so naturally
do we bend to feed ourselves
on what grows before us

**

the artist brings work
into the center of a flame

dinosaur eyes embrace materials
of everyday things before color
breaks down into a spirit we donšt completely see
although we feel it

Four

when light pours into the rooms
pools lengthen, clouds form, antiquity
flees to the present and begs for a new day to come

shadows elongate, then decompose

brushstrokes speak of enduring
every hour passing passes like a shade
time tips over, the paint spills, it splashes
on a boulder, it flows down a dry creek bed
and laps at a canyon wall

the artist is trapped in freedom

thriving on loud silence
as it boomerangs from sky
to tremulous titanium banked by dark green

the pain wills itself to speak
we hear what we wish to hear
when loud and forest meet, when fires leap

Five

under the paint, time and space
in the paint, fire and air
above the paint, imaginationšs ancient elegy

the artist will not cease, can only bend
to find a new line, or rise
to see lines converge, or sleep in order to feel
dream and dreamless sleep become one
vast field of color

the artist
is hungry, hunger grows
whenever the artist faces colors colliding, song
wants freedom., pushing
shoving, imagining
puling and discovering a circle of forms
that will thrust themselves outward and make the circle
into a poem that ripples from the center

I saw a bear foraging for light, a woman
grasping at the sun, a penny thrown
into the sky, a shadow
yearning for fire, all of these things
in the paintings
set against a wall of books
or propped bedside a chair

it is a surrealism
of the hand, a poem
of the fingertips, a city
of unforgiving mindfulness
aiming for the center
of a bowl never completely formed

Six

it is a moment ripped
from the anthology, born
to be many, a movement of hand
and eye, dawn floods the room, afternoon
finds a burrow, evening
spreads its measure, day, night, darkness
grief, light, glittering interior routes, roads
made marvelous in the castle
within, here the turrets face a single mountain
swept with clouds, a bird swoops down, trees
at the tree line scream, lichen clings to rock, paint
floods the studio, the artist awakens from the adventure
in awakening, somnambulant doors swing open