Big Bridge #10

An Open Letter to America


Neeli Cherkovski


Three Green Stalks

three green stalks
rise out of the ground
making the miniature
grove of bamboo
more beautiful than
it has ever been

this is where
the meditation begins
here is where the country
begins, this is where you
learn to mind your own
business, you think of
shutting the door, closing your
mind, but the words
in simple language
rise from your fist

it’s not possible to close
your eyes, it’s time for
non-collaboration, a day
for ducking the system

mind your own
country, that’s in the
bamboo, take off your
“killing clothes,” come
to the leaves as they
rustle in a breeze

this little groove of bamboo grove
grinds at your head, it speaks
of conceit and the push for
an empire, here the emperor is
a wisp of tree, an angelic weight of
words, here the lingo is
one planetary breeze making
our bamboo sing

three green stalks
bigger than one small
idea of who is and who is not
the enemy, we are
enemy enough, our words
betray what we are unable to
feel, take off your
bamboo, take on the
breeze, cling to the soil, roll
in your words, planetude your
fears, pray for
one song, an icing of
speech made right by
the miracle within the wood

here the meditation begins
‘It’s true, I don’t want
to join the Army. . .” unless you
undress your words and
throw your arms around me
where collaboration is
a field of burnt bodies and
a slum filled with treasures
from the past

mind your own business, leave
democracy to the rain and
the voices
of children playing
love games in
the killing field
every word
is sacred when it
burns down the throat of
memory to yield
what belongs to the breeze

you are
a desert person, you
hide in the
mountains, you blew
up the two Buddha stones
you think I don’t know
about these things?
I never read
the editorial page
I sit with the bamboo
as your blood-stained
leaders break words in half

three green stalks
of bamboo made in America,
“o tender little Buddha”
please do not be blown to bits anymore

help me carve my sorrow
into the grains of our land
boundaries will
disappear, we will be indigenous

I sing for the miracle
of three green stalks and the words
to bring them through the night


Poor Democracy...

a sick ode
to democracy
is what we heard
over the din
of the band

a sick "OH!!
is why we are
feared world-

we take a
good word
and squeeze the
good out of it

our somber boots
of hydrogen dust,
prevail, our silos
filled with death
smile into the eye
of time

please stop
this talk of
leading the world
and remain
true to the

oh "Democracy"
we fear
the generals
and the admirals
and the warlords
who live
in the heart
of our bleeding

"OH" poor
democracy, we love
your eyes, we hold your
slender hands, we
cannot deliver you
in a casing of metal

is is a
death ode
that the band
plays, it brings
fear to
people everywhere

they sit
and wonder, and
they wait


The Elegy

the elegy may not sustain us
but it will try, we will bend our language
toward the sewers
and read from the rocks and drink
from bottles of ordinary wine, and seize
the rain as it tears into little things

we will hammer our words
away from the libraries as they perish, we will
call the librarians to the shore, show them
the deep green azure signatures
of the gods who drone
while our copters crash into the skull
of another planet

we are drowning in steel
and cement, we are making an elegy
for the woman who fades in time
and reappears, her eyes squinting
over exquisite terrain, she wants to feed
her children, she dreams of the ballet
she puts the elegy onto her lips
as the rain grows downward, as the sergeants
lead young men and women
toward a most perfect and sustained rage

we will take away an arm and an eye, we will lead
our enemies to their children where both will die, we will stand
on the porch, half hidden by the trees, true collaborators
with the surf of the epic, and we will feed ourselves
on the glowing distances that are like candles
in the surreal castle that is filled with the blood of the poet

the elegy will be born, we will thrive
in the rain, we will see each letter
turn into its animal self, and we will be there
with them, it is our wish, over the bureaucratic
song that grips the neighborhoods