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Poem for Neeli

by Gerald Nicosia

I'll always remember the poems
that spilled out of your coffeepot
in that little flat on Harwood Alley
where dead poets lived on the walls
and reams of xerographic bond were destroyed forever
by the black ink tracks of your pained mechanical fingers,
your volcanic mind,
turned to something new
and far less innocent than tree pulp---
I mean the pulse of your deadly heart
that will pump forever through the bookstores and libraries
and writers' garrets of this world
making enemies and converts often at the same time.
Neeli Cherkovski exploder of trees and manipulator of cellulose
trying to make San Francisco human
and the streets of America funny again!
Typing when no one hears him
tapping when no one cheers him
knocking on Whitman's door and Pound's and Kaufman's
(which is also his own door)---
and the real miracle of it is
everyone's always home when he comes to call---
C'mon, Neeli, do it all---
the ghosts are out there rooting for you
a million light years away in the universe
they see you coming toward them---
and applaud the life you give them
in that grand old book of your mind. ##

Neeli Cherkovski was born in Santa Monica, California in 1945, he has edited The Black Cat Review, participated in the civil rights movement, was a Vietnam War protester in the 60s. He has run schools and been to them. In the late 60s, he attended Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. After a time in Europe, Israel, and Mexico, Cherkovski settled down in San Francisco.

San Francisco has had quite an impact on the city, and the city has had an impact on Neeli. The Standard Times says that “If, indeed, there is any truth to the saying, "Poetry is like bread," then San Francisco is the bakery and Neeli Cherkovski the baker.” He has published a number of works, including:

And that’s just what’s published in English. Neeli has also published in French, German, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese, Finnish, and Spanish. Julio Ramiriz called him "a world voice who has left an indelible mark on the poets of Oaxaca during two visits."

Cherkovski, who is gay, is now a “writer in residence” at the New College of California, and often writes for poetry readings (which he often organizes with Gerry Nicosia) around San Francisco.

Cherkovski himself sums it all up himself: “I honor Socrates and Krishna. They taught compassion, self-reflection, and how to ask questions that lead to the truth. They are my heroes.”




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