Neeli Cherkovski

For Jah'Shams Abdul-Mu'min

I guess I love the river that cries
for failing eyes on the fifth floor
of the Merchant Court Hotel
lady of telephone dreams

Hi, I guess it's me, we're an airport
trees dressed as only trees can dress
against fading light of stone, I believe
I never knew how to think

there's a place in my heart where memory
is a kind of thanks, but for what?
thank you for being an asshole, thank you
for stealing the election, but most of all

I guess I love the city with its silence
its noise, clean sidewalks, our
solution to the heroin trade
oh I guess the windows are windows

the river crawls, it used to stink, the ocean
sleeps, once it sang, the island thrives, it wants to
die, but we're not going anywhere, the hotel lobby
is cool, its hot outside, Chinatown hides

we were in Bali but Singapore, I swim
in a pool of lights, my body is warm, its cool
inside, I need to think about thinking
what thinking really is, the possibilities

she sleeps with him but they never make love
they don't need to make love, what is love
anyway? maybe they make love in other ways

a canto jondo, a deep song, a song that sleeps
in airport lobbies, the lobby is filled with ice, the
lobby has an atrium, the bookstore is stocked
with magazines and books critical of the government

when the river stopped stinking the people
began to live, but they cry late into the night, silently
unable to forgive their pain, I meant they are
victims of the thing that victimizes me

coming in from the airport the taxi driver said
you cross the border like a terrorist, he was
an old man, he works very hard, he dreams, he says
he dreams of not working, the trees

it is late at night, the city sleeps, the stores
are groaning, the markets are fabulous
when they are made of Mahabhatata and
Ramayana, and Chinatown once found

there are birds in the cavern late at night
we go in with our bamboo, my mind is a blaze
but I still grip the telephone, no one talks
anymore, what does it mean to think about

I think it is good to forget, thanc is thanks
also memory, to remember is to think
when you see a thing you think a thing
along the clean river of deep insight

I said "Singapore," in Bali the temples dream
like the cabbie, I don¹t want to work anymore, its
too hard, my son is in America, you are alive
or officially brain dead? I think of trees

along the lines of a senior minister
in the sanitation department, eyes with which
to see, I see, I think, I am a river
the city is alive and rising

the Dutch built a botanical gardens
in the sky, we went there with our
tour guide who waited in the bus, we walked
among towering trees

Singapore, history, peace, war, the Art
of War, the fine art of kissing ass, the Ho Chi Minh
Trail is where? north or south? when? what?
I guess I love the river with its boat ride into the harbor

the boat ride was free with our book of coupons
alone in the hallway fumbling for my keys
Singapore, a cloud, history, thinking, misery
the effect you have on people

so who cares? they sing for the temples
of luck and despair, a ride into oblivion
no more travel, nothing to declare, my eyes
nobody works anymore, no one cares

slip in a song work terror -
day by day bowing and scraping before
a superior the Embassy is twenty blocks away
my hand is a receiver - contact the Director
of Public Relations Singapore Air eucalyptus

but here you have no options, the sale
of heroin means an automatic death sentence
or so I have been made to understand
or perhaps you just want a good caning?

I guess sad, I guess happy, I guess nothing
every night and every morn some to misery are born
the bleeding multitudes of money, soon
the night is over, day begins

when you drive in you come to the fire
such a place, the palace of love, they work
for their own betterment, one row of public housing
followed by the memory of love

easy going, Rama meets Krishna
oh Singapore, your face is clean, the bookstores
are all on the second or third floor, it is late
but the trees never sleep, nor do the windows

every tree a story, who put them there?
I don't want to be a minister, I don't need
your embassy, I sit by the river near midnight
on a bench made of stones

if sometimes we fail to see
maybe we're not thinking, maybe
war and peace are one chain, maybe we're
afraid of the animal with lonesome eyes

you are safe alone at three a.m.
the police are invisible until you need them
if you need them, we are not perfect
it is not good to be alone

if by thinking you mean talking
you're mistaken and why anyway
would they scrape ochre out of the earth
and make these images?

Sikhs South Indians Arab Street
Old New Chinatown - Senior Minister Wu
Senior Minister and Mao Zedong
everything that's bad is not made in America

I lay in bed sweating air conditioning is on
full blast towers are ablaze in my head
I've been thinking too much selfishly - I had
an argument with my ghost

in the Cultural Revolution they smashed
5,000 years of ceramics Senior Minister is
a very smart man the river doesn't stink
the river runs through my head I am thinking

what is memory? what is desire?
tender Senior Buddha of my head I shake
the Buddha down we eat in an Indian
restaurant we buy books printed in Madras

I forgot to mention we left our passports
in the airport rushed back there the trees
were ordered to exist I cannot grieve
for the telephone sitting alone
August 10 2002




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