Michael Rothenberg

We currently have five poems by Michael Rothenberg. You can listen to them all one after the other using the playlist below or if you prefer you can click the links further down to read a specific poem whilst listening to it.

Copyright © Michael Rothenberg

Read and listen to Angels Sleep in Peace

Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past midnight

listen to Paganini
Pretenders, King Of America, Heartless Liars

Have you heard them playing 8-ball while reading Ziggy’s Dream?

Did it matter when the Army closed
imagination’s terrifying halls to Strategists of Art?

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter
No explanation needed for transfer of funds

from one pocket to another

For those Charlie Chaplins entering data,
boiling nouvelle shoe leather soup

Supping on Valentine’s Desires and Therapeutic seasonings
It makes sense

Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past insomnia

Possum scud across the roof

Listening to accusations of the trite and trivial
from Fashion Fascists

Reveling in accusations of the ideal & naïve

soaked in gross dependencies & mother

Have you heard them in their drunken dance
on granite floors,

In the rhythm of Sisyphus?

Would it matter if Superman
disappeared in his glacial fortress and forgot about Lois Lane?

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter
No explanation is needed for the transfer of sperm

from one pocket to another

For Cryogenic Automatons taking surveys & grants,
boiling eclectic dialectics

Gorging on Cornish hens & Sweet & Low

It makes sense

Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past gunshot

& sweat soaked orgies
& tender whisperings

Have you made up your mind,

in those white silk gowns,
hair loose on freckled shoulder,

licking your own nipples,
raising your naked ass to four impossible walls?

That I should be persuaded by repressed exhibitions of genitalia
Does it matter when crisis rings

the death of a poet & saw-grass fires kiss his naked guilt?

No, it didn’t add up to verse, or wake the angels to salve
the clawing innocent

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter longer

No explanation needed for the transfer
of one fish from one

Amazon to one aquarium
on a bookshelf on one hill above Pacific shoreline

For Game Hunters tracking down genuine
tears & renderings, boiling conceptual logic

Mounting vanquished language of invisible
jaguars & hornless rhinos

On walls…

It makes sense

For those lazy drifters beneath the stars

February 21, 1998

Read and listen to Incarceration of the Orange Bartender

Bourbon straight out of the bottle
before I go to bed
Who could tell you better
what love is really like?

I don’t remember

It was a burn in my chest
and a physical wish
Made my jaws tingle
and kicked my ass in the morning

Rubber Jim, Shady Lady
High Buck, Saw Buck
Duck Walk, Calamity Rose

Falling apart all over you

Stumbling around in a hazmat suit
Shoelaces tied together
I walked home from the disposable China factory
singing “Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands”

“Fancy that,” she said, “You’ve learned
to speak in whole sentences,
most of the time”

And she was right, most of the time
She was the smartest one in the family
When she wasn’t crying about how cruel life is
and how none of it ever comes easy

“Oh, you’re a fine judge of character
But your stepping on my toes,” I said
“and making my plantar fasciitis bleed
Ease up some and let the good times roll…”

But she didn’t, she couldn’t
She was a Catholic and so was her mother
Beer was her divine grace and eternal covenant
So she cried and cried, drank and cried
Not that all Catholics do
But you can imagine

Rubber Jim, Shady Lady
High Buck, Saw Buck
Duck Walk, Calamity Rose

Falling apart all over you

I regret I never became a superstar
I was always too shy for that
Suffering from low blue self-esteem
or false humility, I’m not certain…

I’d lie in bed in the dark any time of the day,
tired of the world and Moses
Great things are for great people, I’d moan
Modest contemplation deserves a reward
and should always get it…

“You have to work it”
The movers and shakers like to say
“Enter the system, come to a meeting”
How, exactly, do you “work it”?
“Work it like you’re worth it”

Give me my own distillery, I thought, I’ll do it myself
Besides why do I need a middle-man
“That flower is bootiful all in itself, ” I said
And drank myself unconscious

Bourbon straight out of the bottle
before I go to bed
Who could tell you better
what love is really like?

Read and listen to Pro Muslim

She wants to know if I am pro Muslim
Why not pro Muslim?
Of course, I am pro Muslim!
Hugely pro Muslim
Pro Muslim like my life depends upon it
And while I am at it
I am pro Jew, pro Christian,
pro Buddhist, pro Fish, pro Swan,
pro Rose, pro Daffodil, pro Biotics,
pro Sun, pro Sky, pro Moon,
pro Trout, pro Limpkin
Pro Marmalade, pro Peanut Butter,
pro Volone, pro Cheddar
and pro Poetry!
Have you a got a problem with that?

Read and listen to There Will Be Slaves

There will be queens, presidents, laureates and slaves
Cicada and a calamity of brass bells in a chorus
at 2 a.m., when the shadows stretch and bend
across the heavy doors of the spirit swollen church

Poets from Paris, Sacramento and Kuala Lumpur
will begin a serenade, take on a puppet Broadway,
a stoned choreography in the piazza,
while children in pajamas crawl out on moonlit balconies,
watch through curtains of night-drying laundry,
dripping blouses and large pink underwear,
the dance and fermentation of the spoken word . . .

There will be a quake, a mutant rhyme, a seagull cry
Then change will come

A breeze from the broad blue Tyrrhenian Sea
The resurrection of green with every lava-buried breath,
disabling cobble and utopian abbracci

It will come
The change

And then the children will go back to bed
The police will never say a word
The clock will unwind and all the poets of the world
will march in celebration of another broken law
Another pantomime of insurrection.

Read and listen to Wakulla Springs

Yesterday, we went to Wakulla Springs
One of the largest and deepest
freshwater springs in the world
We took a ride on a pontoon boat
down the crystal clear Wakulla River
Alligators sunned on the riverbanks
Turtles basked in shiny colonies on dead wood
Manatees grazed in the eel grass
I felt like I was floating on a dream
I want to go back to Wakulla right away
There were birds everywhere
All kinds of tropical type birds
White ones and blue ones, striped ones
Ones with red beaks, sleek black ones
Snake necked Anhingas drying their wings
Snowy egrets. White Ibis, Teal and Moorhen

Bald cypress stood like sentinels in the river
Trunks webbed like the flying buttress
on a gothic cathedral drenched
in Spanish Moss, pocked by centuries
Bulrushes and white spider lilies
Big yellow Swallowtail butterflies
Great Blue and Little Blue Heron
Turkey vultures and Common Mergansers
All kinds and colors of damselflies
and iridescent dragonflies
Purple Gallinules. Suwannee cooters
Snapping turtles. Bony alligator gar
and schools of fat striped mullet
We didn’t even get to see
the White-Tailed deer, or Wild turkey,
the Bald eagles or Osprey,
the North American river otter
or those noisy Apple snail eating Limpkins,
but they’re supposed to be there,
most of the time. So I want to go back!
They say, when the river is really clear,
you can see the fossilized remains
of a mastodon resting on the river bottom.

Michael Rothenberg

Michael Rothenberg is co-founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, co-founder of Poets In Need, a non-profit 501(c) 3, assisting poets in crisis, and editor and publisher of BigBridge.org. His most recent books of poetry include Drawing The Shade (Dos Madres Press, 2016)The Pillars (Quaranzine Press, 2020) and I Murdered Elvis (Alien Buddha Press, 2020.  In Memory of A Banyan Tree, Poems of the Outside World, 1985-2020 will be published by Lost Horse Press in 2022. Rothenberg currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida where he is Florida State University Libraries Poet in Residence.  

more on Wikipedia

Music Production and Performance by
Jon Pazder


Book Cover - The Two of Us

Wake Up and Dream - by Michael Rothenberg

Wake Up and Dream fluctuates between bipolarities …

Find out more here …


Book Cover - The Two of Us

The Pillars - by Michael Rothenberg

This is a wonderful collection of a 10 part poem and art pieces …

Find out more here …


Book Cover - The Two of Us

I Murdered Elvis - by Michael Rothenberg

I MURDERED ELVIS documents Rothenberg’s journey to Nashville …

Find out more here …