ISSUE FIVE
November 1998

Michael Rothenberg

Michael Rothenberg Michael Rothenberg's work has appeared in Sycamore Review, Exquisite Corpse, Berkeley Poetry Review, Lungfull!, Mudlark, Pyrowords, Rockhurst Review, and other publications. He is editor and publisher of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else. He is more recently editor of Overtime, Selected Poems by Philip Whalen due out with Penguin Putnam, Inc. in 1999.
(Mostly) Cool    Read Along with the Author


Cool, I'm in Paris!
4 am after studio night with hip hoppers, rappers
Hip hopping, rapping in what must be French
Every once in a while Valerie turns in apology for leaving me out of the conversation
It's cool, they keep talking: Hakim, The Punisher, Driver
And some other stuff about other stuff
I eat pommes frites dipped in Dijon mustard, smile
Then catch ride back out to burbs for message of
Crisis met with daredevil tactics, desperate deepening tests of highflying wills
Pitched in battle over Muse and God of Domestic Expectations
I wouldn't wish a broken family on anyone. There's no net
I've cut my teeth on matrimony's fragile breath, wept on saccharin preserves
Spread on Teflon bone refuses to glue or reframe
In cosmic bakery of splendor…

What we know, or plan in photographs like Man Ray will
Can collapse, as if only to invalidate
One hundred shadow-less gods of mercenary astrology
The faith of a century licked straight from the tube
A decade of gardens and shared silver moons
Oh, all those times!
And the children carry gall stones of that inconstant bliss
The illusory morph of baptized, crucified, interred affection
No matter the polish of explanation or reflections on conditions
The digital clockwork of settlement
Pearls of wisdom sparkle like tears to make it clear
But it only gets cloudier, explanations get cloudier, eclipse love
Children see whole in disfigurement, it's what they know
Until they've learned they're only possession is half of harmony
And quest their lives in reconciliation of heaven and hell

Cool, so what can I do?
It's not my problem or prison to gloss
Intimacies of someone else's husband, someone else's wife
Cold nights of separate beds howl across blue flesh tundra
The halls between cool
The world speaking an incomprehensible French
I eat pomme frites dipped in Dijon mustard, lament
What can I do? Nothing…
I swallow more than I can chew, live through
The hungering bottomless fill, in Paris the innocent
Can only be patient, hip hop and rap, and only be (mostly) cool…

 

 

Sitting In Taverne Maitre Konter    Read Along with the Author


Sitting in Taverne Maitre Konter drinking Perrier
Looking for where I'm on the map. Rain drops from red awning
On umbrella. I'm treated well here. Waitress and
Manager my age or about are polite and friendly
I was the college student they ignored. Long hair, counting my change
Dodging the scam. Now pretty women are younger than me or married
I've lived long enough already. I want nothing more than to settle down
Momo may have to throw me out but I'll try to leave before
I outlive my welcome…

I'm suspicious of anything easy to say
Toenails of the small dog tapping on the tile floor above my bed
Car horns blowing a block away
I have dinner at a friends house, one hour to get there, one hour to burn
We went to elementary school together
She moved here 25 years ago with her French husband
She'll ask me about my life, I'll recall "Death In Venice"
And tell her I'm doing great, have found my place in money and art
As for love, well, I'm recently divorced
I'll lie about being happy, be entertaining, allow her French
Husband to be superior in his own home and
She'll be philosophical. She'll have forgotten who she was
Then I'll take a taxi to Noisy-Champs. The drugs of my youth will
Exist outside my better judgement. My pondering on suicide will be
Familiar and trivial. I'll read a Russian fairy tale and note
How far my lot has fallen from the plot
It was romantic while it lasted. And romantic because it came to an end
Motor scooters shoot raspberries down rue JJ Rousseau

 

 

"Free Man in Paris"    Read Along with the Author

for Joni Mitchell


Wounded, injured, broken, painfully scarred
Possibility is conditional but the hero has his hour…
Art is not all imagery

But an experiment of explosions, underground testing
In the waiting room, in magazine
One page at a time or flipping through several expressions

It's too easy to be hurt, sometimes, belonging to no one

 

 

Michael Rothenberg: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review