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Michael Rothenberg


      I write this song for you
      to know if songs are true
      I say your name
      let me explain
      who I am

Crossing through clouds, suddenly in New York
Nobody at the airport, New York's a lonely giant
Looking for someone, no one looking for me
Great poets die young
Great poets live long
Great poets write popular songs
I left California, I don't blame my wife
Loneliness is cheating, I have to please myself
Tires squeal, horns honk
Eight million people, I know five
I call and ask for you, Irina Svetlanova
Irina writing Beluga Night
Firebird with a rock and roll band
Irina, you make me feel ordinary
Starstruck, I want to confess
Tell me, does your breath smell like candy?
Stoned in a taxi on my way in from Kennedy
Brooklyn Bridge important years ago
Drunken sailors toppling in love without redemption
It's popular to be romantic

            if only because,
                        everyday-muck rejecting,
      I awaited you,
                  a poet of strife!
      If only for that
                  resurrect me!
            I want to live out my life!
      So that love won't be a lacky there
      of livelihood,
                        or worse."
                              Mayakovsky, ABOUT THIS

All we are, we are, and you are
How many prophecies!
Even trees with roots speak to the grave
Irina, can I say perish in your ears
Or do I always have to talk immortality?
Is this my song or yours?
I don't know you to know the rules
It's cold, 3rd Ave., Apt. 6C
Can I say perish in your ear?
Is this my song or yours?
Apt. 6C, it's cold
Great poets die young
Great poets live long
How long can I wait for you?
Is it you I'm waiting for?
What's a rose without red?
Who cares about a yellow rose?
Red rose, your puckered lips
And when your hair was still red...

Irina, dance with me!
Irina, sing my song!
Who am I?
If the picture's still not clear, I'll make myself into a mirror
If the picture's not clear, I'll make a story out of you
I imagine you naked
My apologies, it can't be your body I'm thinking of. . .
And what about my wife?
She's loving but lately monkish
Concentrates on a deadly art
Sits zazen every morning
Now I'm looking around for another woman
"Go ahead," she said
"But what if I fall in love?" I asked
"I hope you'll come back," she said

I want to be somebody International!

At Dante's Inferno, you're attractive and intelligent
I'm married and just looking, so nothing physical, please
Unless we both want it, and I don't ask first

And if I knew you, would I ever get to know you?
Would knowing you be all I needed to do?
In Brooklyn you emerge from a crowd
No one recognizes you but me
In Brooklyn, that's all I know, then you vanish

Venture capitalists in the kitchen eat blintzes and latkes thinking
My cousin Michael's got a crush on a pop star
He'll end up at the stage door, reflection in a tinted window
As the limousine of night stretches away. . .
Irina, I'm going to send you my poetry, my poem to you, this play
You could direct me to the heart of my convictions
Lost and out of sense, you could direct me...
And that Russian guy who said he knew your soul!
How could he?
Are you a sex symbol?
You have sex I suppose
Your public image must be more than a pose
Your pantomime of glamour
I'm going to buy a page in Interview
And print this song on a giant gemstone heart
Supported by a pedestal of wrestlers
And I'll be strapped to the mast of a ship
Sailing through a crack in the heart
And you'll be the siren singing

My mother would be hysterical if I brought you home
She'd ask, "What's he doing with her?
What kind of girl is she?
Where does he come to her?
Is she wild?
Is she on drugs?
Is she Jewish?"
I'd say, she's an icon, only an idol

There's a man in a window across the street     
Taking isolation to extremes
He's got a mirror and himself for company
And anyone whose watching
Sex and Death drive the cloud away
A light goes on, it's me in the mirror
Blue glasses, shaved and 43
Years pass and no stars, I turn to you
Years and no stars, now I turn
Watch you open sleepy eyes
Watching your naked feet as you cross Russia...

Stalin's 30 million dead, 200 million silent
Frozen snow in Red Square
Two stars, not me or you
We figure red, white and blue
You met great people in Russia
Did you meet Mayakovsky?
In the cranky halls of Siberian Hotel
6,000 rooms of KGB
In breezeways of bureaucracy
Did you find on bloody walls
Lyric Esenin in your head?
Standing at the window in trousers
A cloud without a shirt waiting
Wolves chase me from my dreams
What I dream is red red lips
Irina, there's a service fee for sacrifice
The limousine of night stretches my reflection into dawn. . .

You were the only one in town
Honest and intense, uncomfortable at parties
How can anyone say you're not beautiful?

Siren of Wall Street!
Angry with your appearance
Disappointed in every man you meet
Ellen's boyfriend is your ex-boyfriend

Siren of Wall Street!
Be loved by me in my bourgeois way
Recieve me on a misfit's holiday
I'll read you poetry

It started when he offered me drugs
I offered him mine, suggesting superiority
And if I told him about my wife
He'd be especially nervous about his life
Stunned by exclusionary tactics, he was tragic
In a romantic way, not romantic in an ideal way

Music thunders through the neighbor's wall
An axe falls between old friends
New lovers have their say
Valerie and Bill come home
Find the sofa extended into a bed
We order snacks, I pass out
No dreams, Irina, not of you
I pushed too hard to find you

We were never in Paris!
I've never sat in a bar with you, or heard you say anything
We were never in Paris!
I'd like to be with you, but I'm afraid idols don't make good friends

Resurrect poets from graves!
Get up in the morning be glad to be afraid
Don't be afraid to get up!
I couldn't kill myself for you
At least not laying down the lyric beat
Resurrect, I might be right for you
Looking for you club to club
Sober as America allows the insane
Question to question, what are we?
Looking for ourselves dancing through pictures. . .

The Rocker said you ruined Marvin Gaye
Trashed by a man with Javanese nails
Ring in his nose, and like a dancer painted black

      Trashed by False Prophets!
He said you were a brainless bimbo
Promoting wrestlers indicted you
Dud patriotic hulks, societal slime
You sold out nothing, he said, you had nothing to sell
A teeny-bop singer packaged into a widget-star!

Walking the Village in alarm
4 a.m and rubble's romantic
I'm a victim of self-sacrifice
White formica isn't nice
Unless it's god you're thinking about
Now Mayakovsky's hunting me out
Offering up my middle class bits to Lenin
Morning isn't fun when the revolution's over
Mayakovsky, the popular cause is the popular song!
10,000 KGB hear the Muse
On a Monday night at the Pyramid Lounge
Utopia's a fascist hangover

      "At such a time
                  what foolish blockhead
      will rave
            the word 'Democracy?' "

And doesn't it mean, looking for you
No one's at home, there's no one to go to?
Doesn't it mean love's falling
When there's no plan to stay or depart?
Popular visions mimic a dungeon
After three beers The Gold Javanese Goddess
Leaves the dance, she's feeling existential
She says what she wants to say
She bops when she wants to bop

Under the moon
Under the moon
Someone's got to take a chance
Someone's got to...

Your lips ruby hills pressed against a ruby valley
Your eyes are capsized boats
I walk the Lower East Side, garbage soup to nuts
Music speaks louder than words
Friends love me, New York loves me
Popular heroes sing songs people sing when they're alone
And your angelic voice leaves me no choice

How long has it been?
Doorway or hinge?
Obsession or binge?