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Michael Rothenberg / Poems


Morning belonged to the recollection of dreams
but I had none, only vacant contemplation

waiting for some train to pass that is no more
Thursday. Picking it out from the rest. There goes

one day I thought would last forever. Now
hope springs eternally dragging mopey headed

flowers past a velvet and cerulean peak into decay
swamping dead eyes in slow silent wavetops of summer


yellow sunfilled roses
wet lilacs invisible

in wordworn space conjuring
fragrance from memory

two dancers in ocean breeze
running crest to crest

imminent, rugged, bloodied
pursue fugitive echo of soul


angel at forge
inside heart of gargantua
beast ever turning toward
fate but angels continue
harping muses ring in shine
of heavenly bodies twinkling
in space
            as he has abducted her psyche
            somewhere behind
monolithic chatter of crickets low
rumble of death, as we become
smaller and less distinct we hear
the child in ourselves
night seals our lips


I used to only write indoors
a universe of poetry
inside my head
then a writer I admire suggested
I go outside where
I first wrote:
            big blue sky
then crossed it out
who gives a
shit if the sky is big
or blue? but still outside
under big blue
sky things were going on
nature happening
kinds of clouds
billowy climbing, wispy
cirrus behind nimbus, one
especially aggressive
slapped me in the eye-
then observed, recorded
clouds as portents, poems
ways to bring
inner and outer worlds out
from there
wrote in casinos
parties, massage parlors
online chat rooms, museums
so when time came
to take it
            down, inside or out
I’d really be in shape


son’s 6th birthday party
hang balloons

wrap tv set box with bows
“I want it all, I want it all

and I want it now!"
shiny blue wrapping paper

candle on chocolate cake

frosting, chocolate dinosaur
sing “Happy Birthday”

"we will, we will rock you!"
then video arcade where

he wins day-glo frisbee
blows up tanks, eats French fries


I know two women, I like them both, that seems wrong
someone always gets hurt
            that may be true, but you need time to know them both
but sleep with them both?
            I know two men I am crazy about. One is very special
            in one way, his way, and the other in his. But both
            very, very different. I don’t even know myself well enough
            to tell one goodbye, I want to experience both in every way

Don't they want to possess you?
Don't you want to be possessed?
            the one most right will be the strongest and survive
            I don’t want to be possessed right now. I’ve been
            possessed for years. I want my freedom

I feel I’ve had freedom but want to land, somewhere peaceful to sleep
            suppose you give one up and it turns out to be the one
            you should have kept. you need to experience

            both and find yourself along the way
I agree otherwise the decision would be arbitrary
            my two guys both want to own me. they talk
            of marriage when I am just getting out of one

Like tossing a coin
            right. Unfair to both, but mostly to yourself
Are you leading them on to indulge yourself?
            I’m not leading anyone on, I just don’t make promises
            I’m not prepared to keep. Both know I’m dating the other
            neither needs to know if I sleep with the other. That's
            my business. I don’t kiss and tell, but sex with one might
            be awesome and horrible with the other. Suppose you
            really like one and the sex sucked? What would you do?



I had a dream
I was at ezra pound's house the night he died

he left me his stereo
I had to sneak it out when no one was looking

he left no written will
and I was afraid people would think I stole it

I had a hell of a time
trying to disconnect the speaker wires . . .


i had a gold ring
i lost it

ten years later
found it in closet

put it in a safe so
i wouldn't lose it

six years later someone
broke into the safe

stole it
now i’ve lost

an important paper
i want to find it

how could i lose it?
What happens to memories?


you can't pick up
where you left off
what can you do?
            get lost
            garble, squawk, hiss
            listen for new voice.
wow, did ya see that steel-blue wing fly by?
don't slouch, scrunch your shoulders like that, don't slump
oh, my aching back! try later


            waking in bathtub of ice
with one less kidney
                        than I was born with

            “that will teach ya to drink with strangers”


so here we are face to cyberspace
Queen blasting walls. heaven
can wait. having a hell of a time
how about a little wire
runs up my spine down yours
you tap my brain. I feel your heartbeat
not fast enough, the exchange
want to go faster, mail takes too long
Miami few thousand miles away
pool under clacking palms
Biscayne Bay ruffled in primordial
alligator atmosphere 90 degrees
I make a practice objectifying women
it’s not my fault they can't deal with it . . .

"all I can do is surrender to the moment, just surrender"
lamplight on jack-in-the-box Shakespeare
(see ya!)


oh my

            what is this

behind your ear
come a little nearer

                        will you?


d. in cutoff shorts         mowing
summer grass

            'neath rainbow
of men's


            in high grass of summer
lost my cherry

            so long ago

side effect of divorce
seems to be growing back

            check this
little red pulsing bud

            what could it be?


“I ain't got no body" by S. and Ghostly Confession
invisible presence sweeping up laurels

to wear upon cyberskulls. It’s a thankless job
take these roses, imagine the fragrance

as spirit of wilting petals carpet bottomless ground
but let me say this, you’re sweet to placate

with transcendent admiration. a love that will never
go down in history.


did I ever say why I’m harried?

            don't need to be married

                                bodiless we serve
                                    a compliment
to bond
established over

            and you
dear need not


            vows of camaraderie
                        with contracts or transactions

just credit where

                                    it’s due
have I made myself clear?

                                                                                    6/6- 6/27/97