North of November

by Neeli Cherkovski

Sometimes the days stretch
Over the grim machines
Larger than memory
Should allow
And I just have to go there
Because it is no use
To resist the power of the forces
That have come together

I may balk and complain
To others but the fact is
Memory is difficult
Fraught with danger
Capable of driving you mad
Old bolted doors
And narrow windows
Of downtown office buildings

I have to go north of November
In order to forget
Even then it’s difficult
Rising over the Cascades
Cruising an open road
Buying an Amtrak ticket
And lying in bed

Well the train cuts across
Stern barriers in old growth forests
And the breakfast is served
It’s perfect and the coffee
Strong enough

Sometimes wolves come leaping
Down the hallway
Books collapse
As I try to empty
Random spikes of trouble
Snagged on barbed wire
In my brain

A pale green Chevrolet
Is parked in my childhood
Granny carries a black purse
Filled with $20 bills she hands me
When I spin like a top
And dream of sweet young men
Who live under my bed
And make poetry seem so easy

Memories memories memories
I am lost on snow fields
Palms cracked from the ice
Lips bloody with frost
The ancient hunters follow
As I take one moment
To build a fragile fire
From what my ancestors taught

November November
To the north I knew as a child
Complex terrifying memories
Crouching like rabid dogs
I see their eyes gleaming down the road
Time to say hello time to go
Time for musk oxen and men
Who would never surrender
But always surprise
Because they know how to endure