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July 31, 2009

Poem for a Festival


by Neeli Cherkovski


some of those who live here were not born
in the poem, but they arrive on reed rafts
anyway and are recognized, some of the roar
at the center of the poem comes from the
people who await us on shore

the voices of our ancestors scream from twin jetties,
there is a god for understanding and
one for giving up, there are signs of drought
and dispossession, rising sea water and men
who wear the horns of their animal
as a matter of obedience to a high and indefinable
law, we have the capacity to listen, and the right
to be reborn, we choose arrogance, or anonymity
maybe both, and we dwell in the word

the season of forgiveness arrived, we watched
the captains come off of their ships, the sailors
wrote pages of poetry which they fed to the waves,
our ancestors were borne over the tides to find us
standing on the docks, a sea breeze fell, the gulls
and pigeons paraded, a limber goddess dressed
in dance welcomed all to a fictional island

we boarded a moon boat, we fingered
words as if they were gems, we bore
the old epics with kegs of olive oil, we knew how
to judge by simply observing, orange light, amber light
a Homeric odor, rustle of leaves on branches of the
trees in a deer park, strong amber, stale amber, the rose
of the olive as it is poured by an expert hand
a mind with which to believe

tall wooden pagoda standing solid on a granite base, a series
of stepped roofs (one on top of the other) until the sun
seems as if it were an invention of the human mind, which
may lead us to wonder about our songs, where they might
come from, how deep we may travel inside of time
as if time came from the stream

This poem was first read at the San Francisco International Poetry Festival kick-off event in Kerouac Alley, North Beach on Thursday evening, July 23.


Neeli Cherkovski is a San Francisco poet, biographer, and literary chronicler. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including Animal, Elegy for Bob Kaufman, From the Canyon Outward, Whitman's Wild Children, and Bukowski: A Life. He was featured in events of the San Francisco International Poetry Festival.


— posted by Joyce Jenkins
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