Thursday, January 7, 2016



     Yes, Dong, you remain a faded graph

      painted figures coming out of a fog bank
  on Montgomery Street in a watercolor from 1941

      ought to surprise no one       in the dirty air Pearl Harbor

you were chased
        for being “The Enemy,” but you were Hong Kong
Chinese, your pal picked up a block of wood
     and hit a guy over the head, then you both ran
down Hotaling Place… "I kicked the shit out of him
when he came up from around the corner,” 

          we were in the Li Po, Bobby Kaufman and me,
   in the Li Po Bar drinking 'em down, Bobby lived with me, I'd make
 dinner every night and usually had to throw it into the garbage
      as Bobby died and fell into the Bay, we said goodbye
        ash by ash from a box we held over his head, our little wind up rebel saint
                           with his Chinese mind, the black saint

from New Orleans, and those eloquent ladies
    who showed up just in time
       for so many more John F, Kennedy
      conspiracy theories, the sisters of our
poet who wrote, "o man in inner basement core
of me…" as if there was only one jazz club
     and as if this planet was Chinatown
down an alley of blood and guts

      the lights are low, there's Chinatown and there's
the angel, there's the ship of good luck
        and a harbor filled with death, a Chinese testament,
           a hopeful world, a need to be real
 a need for the ruckus to end --
                         little overt push for love
         little light, beautiful rightness, terrific wisdom
         of the baker and butcher, terrific

            the arrogance of a poet in the Chinese night

   Bobby Kaufman's China poems his disappearance
during the Cultural Revolution
   when the thing to do was to take a pair of
     scissors and cut up a poet's scroll, or a sledge hammer
         and send some ancient pottery to smithereens          
                or a wise grandmother to re-education camp
   in the far country, mid-winter

   like that, everyone with balls
     had a chance in our world of lanterns

            the Odes stand like monoliths, the Analects offer
          a route to order,  the Tao keeps the mind free, and the I Ching
advises, it's not always black and white,
          not forever north or south

       those anonymous men
in the Li Po, leaping, drinking, matching one
    another, drink for drink

     it's not just Chinatown, it's a chime
          and one last parking spot
      in Pearl Harbor when you and Sam
                        faded into photographs
and memories, into old watercolors

one elder under the statue of Sun-Yet-San      
      in Chinatown despite everything. . .
                pale light, pastel moon

NeeliCherkovski is an internationally celebrated poet and literary chronicler.  He is featured in the Jan 2016 issue of Talisman.

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