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Michael Rothenberg

Grappling hook.
This telephone.
They weren’t pleasant dreams I was turning about.
Meat rack.
Rearranging books like the inside of my mind.
“That’s a project”.
My projects. Books I must read to finish what I have set out to do most visible.
For $267.00 buy a tape transcription device. (Batteries and typist not included).
This chair. Right here.
Isn’t high enough to reach the keyboard. To play out the melody of addiction.
That small hand drum. Fish drum played with all kinds of Buddhist prayers.
That small drum. That hand drum, fish drum, Buddhist drum, prayer drum. Many kinds of drums.
Nancy said, says, “Yes, you’ve been picking up a lot of stray dogs. Taking a lot of responsibility for other people. Maybe you should do something for yourself.”
Not that anyone would do anything for me. That I would want her to do things that other people would do. There are things she could do that no one else should do.
“I think we’re breaking up here”.
All systems gone.
Those newspaper clippings of community activities. Go!
My activities. Clippings of activities. Headed for scrapbook. Scrap heap.
Laws and promises to snakes and frogs must be kept. To our green world melting. Lake on once frozen skull of planet.
Melting cap. Flaming skull cap on roof of ice age.
Snow seals boiling.
Swarming flies.
Looking out your window. A dead horse.
Flies reincarnate romantic poets. Soon to be entire Generation if ever there was one. One beat.
One family life. Living like I used to be.
Dead. “The ultimate consequence”.
Looking over again. The Traveling Mind.
Get up, go out. Drive a while. See what’s out there. Talk to a stranger. Wear something you wouldn’t ordinarily be caught dead wearing.
No underwear.
Living with the dead.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!”
Walking with the Living Dead.
Through “Sublime Fudge”.
Scrumptious without nutritional value. Super-rational with cherries on top. Scientific Elucidation of Divine Plan for divine works of art.
At Dairy Freeze. Dairy Queen. Smothering 60 flavors with flavorings, nut toppings, hazelnut, walnut, peanut butter slabs, chocolate sprinkles, cookie crumbs, sublime fudge . . .
With cherries on top.
Rainbow swirls of orange and raspberry sherbet, coffee tofutti, vanilla bean frozen yogurt.
Smothering literary criticism smothering . . .
Why can’t you just say you did it because you like to? Because you wanted to? Because it felt good? Or you were playing with something?
“Divine. Simply Sublime Fudge
Something to hang your hat on.
You need something gross. Gross profit.
Out of one of those stuffy books. By stuffy critics on stuffy books by stuffy critics on stuffy books. Read them you might learn something.
Stuffing myself.
Folding socks. Tying up loose ends.
Sublime fudge. You can’t live on that. Leaves you empty, craving. Assaying the literary landscape. Encompassing and scoping. Excavating and mitigating. Sublimating and divinating. Tenure. Tenant farmer. Sharecropper. Slave to sublime fudge.
“Divine. Simply divine.”
Divinating fine words in a blank paged book thick as War & Peace on full book shelf. Book shelf of an obsessive compulsive fetishist. Blank books of past lost and illuminated hours. Illuminated book of lost words and extinct flowers. On precious vellum and gold leaf.
Under crystal glass a plaster cast of William Burroughs’ fist and ass with a radish rose.
Serving up the grand reception. Silver and linen. Many forks of many sizes. One for grapefruit. And spoons. One for scouring the inside of Easter-dyed hard-boiled eggs.
Serving up the resurrected fetus of Jesus, legs still pinned to a wishbone.
For main course a funeral vulture and a three year back-log of stinking corpse flesh.
“It was a perfect day for a picnic but we ate inside.”

Party favors and games followed the ringing of the tingling bell. Cat-of-nine tails and Pin The Tail On The Donkey. Hurrah!
We pushed back our chairs. Away from the table. A clutter of soiled napkins folded on bone china and lamb bones.
We were up for it.
Blind-folded marched by soldiers from the Army of the Living Dead into The Mylar Chamber where we were filmed at play by a mute ventriloquist speaking through the lips of a stuffed velvet red-legged frog slumping on faux Formica pedestal. Red pouting lips and a tobacco smoke singed eye for prepubescent girls, the photographer wheezed as he focused on the reflections of our lives, joked to break the ice, through his still, brittle, gray-white beard, and spoke slowly, “Smile!”.
What a sight we were and how we held our breath and smiled. Held our breath then laughed.
Swinging like a bird in an iron cage at the town square. Jailbird. James Dean. Pickled herring. Gregory Corso.
Everywhere about the country celebrations to honor Creation. Nobel Laureate for Gene Splicing. Cloning.
No one knows who was actually taking the pictures or whether they would turn out good. But there was a walrus of contact sheets mounting and copulating as the virtuoso ventriloquist valedictorian violinist with micro-macro lens snapped off ten hundred rolls of film. We died of laughter.
The post-operative party now in full swing.
That’s when the sores began to erupt on my gums.
Silver nitrate applied to small sores. The wound cauterized.

Bow down. You are about to partake in the . . . What have you got against . . .
Arriving by mail . . .
“Excuse me while I close the door.”
Art and Poetry.
“Don’t let that shit in. It will foul the air.”
Too late, my lovely, too late.
Stories and letters.
>From strangers sent—
Because I have organ, appendage, signage, appreciation, champion of lettered grunt and groan. A uterine wall where the egg can attach and prosper. Seed can germinate. Sprout four legs and a mouth. Propagate.
>From strangers, stories and letters sent for deposit because I have a bank. Luther Burbank for deposit. Bank book for issuing checks. Accountable. Deposit slips. Five years of boxes dating back for five years, for the IRS.
To make a gold mine of inspiration.
To make reward for sincere efforts.
“He tries . . .”
That’s what Gregory Corso said when asked what he thought of Allen Ginsberg’ s poetry: “Allen?” he said, “He tries.” But I heard that second-hand from Ira Cohen.
Deposit inspiration in caverns of ephemeral wings, hollow-boned and winging.
That’s what they send them here for.
Off you go now. Off to school. Learn well and follow the golden rule.
Flown the coop. Out the door.
The body wasting small. Waning in hospital bed wearing a tiara of rock stars and poetry legends. A self-confessed “commie dope fiend”.
“Where was I?”
Gregory Corso is dying from cancer.
“Yes, I know that. But where was I?”
You shouldn’t have to ask . . .

“Great name for a book.”
I don’t get it. What’s it about?
Death. Metaphysics. Voice. Breath. Metaphysics. Death.
You shouldn’t have to ask.
“You want an apology.”
That would be in order.
As you wish.
Awareness of death redefines the moment. Death, the ultimate consequence. The Traveling Mind encounters Sublime Fudge which is overblown literary criticism.
French theorists and Russian doctors deliver babies in swimming pools somehow reducing the trauma of moving a fish to land.
Derrida. Barthes.
Little green apples grafted on a tomato vine.
“Just make sure you put it back right when you put it back”.
Sublime fudge.
Genetically engineered inspiration.
Hand growing out of middle eye so it’s not so much what you see but what you can get a hold of. “Fudge”. To fake it.
The voluminous manifestations of unsettled mind, a family carcass. Cotton erupting from hornless skull of a white rhino. Black rhino.
Some kind of fluff.
Sublime fudge. Kill for it.
Speak clearly into the tape.
“That’s what I’m doing.”
You’re being recorded.
“Am I?”
Yes, you’re being recorded for prosperity, posterity, posterior ruminations.
Chapters in a book. The title of the book is?
“The Book”.
“Where does it begin?”
Anywhere you like.

I’ve been told this is the way to begin. To go about it. Another thing to go about.
Tree trunks backed by sunlight on pine needle slopes. Brown tufts of needles among green tufts of needles on tufts of branches on saplings and giant kings of the mountains and queens of the latitudes among tufts of lime green lichens on brittle groping tufts of dead wood. Tired of synthesis and tropisms. In a colony. A windbreak.
Tired of deaths.
Habitations. Small and large breaths. Exhultations and Personae. Exhalations and masques. Barbarians in sophisticated horn rimmed octagonal warrior helmets with matching mail apparel. Barbed with watery diadems. Ruby diadems.
Sophisticated love positions.
Shelters from a storm. Hatched ruts. Thatched Scotch-taped hay bale retreats out of the flood plain.
From. Coming from. A world we imagine.
It could be a stage with a chair. A tiny table. A ringworm. A hair on a termite nest of mashed potatoes. Coughs off stage. A rehearsal. Or full dress performance. Place where people go to be entertained.
Or get paid very little to perform.
“The writer always gets paid last.”

Awareness of death redefines the moment. Here we are again. Right here againthis desk of paper and pens. Afterthoughts from the afterworld. Spontaneous regrets more than lice and pests.
“Sublime Fudge”.
It’s obvious. The effort to clarify only makes the sky cloudier.
“Why the sky?”
Because it is a lofty choice in the groveling heap of stink and piss around a burrowing mind.
The telephone rings.
“Answer. It might be the King. Someone important. The President,”
No I don’t think so. I’ve heard from the really important people. They’re dead and have said enough already.
“Do you truly believe that? Are you that cynical?”
I’m not cynical. I’m an idealist. An anti-utopian idealist.
“I don’t get it.”
Here’s the missing heart. I found it dying in the bloodless highway of postures and postulations, promotions and gimmicks, almost a stone, almost crumbling in my hand.
Define the moment.
I know it’s the heart. There’s no other heart. The last one came to a screeching halt in a laboratory at Disney Land.
The autopsy concluded: “ The imagination is not the heart.”
“It’s not going to go anywhere.”
Referring to what?
“The heart. It’s not going to run away. Put it down and let me have a look see.”
But it seems important that…
“Don’t worry. If there isn’t something to worry about you will find something to worry about.”
You make me angry. That worries me. You don’t even think in these directions of yours, instructions and summaries, conceptual intimacies, that even the slightest sweet breath of unconditional innocence within fiber optic distance from the relic might resuscitate the corpus whatever it is.,. I can ’t even say . . .
“That is not a relic. And you are so dramatic!”
That’s my job. This is my heart. Go away. You’re killing me. You’re making me die.
“I am very tired. That’s up to you. I have to sleep now. We can talk about this tomorrow. I’ll call you tomorrow after work. It will be very late.”
I can’t resist the impossible.

The book of poems by the dying man. The book of poems by the sublime poetess in constant pursuit of a mythology.
Pens in red. Pens in black. Pencils that erase their own mistakes.
Indelible impressions.
I can’t resist the hot coffee in the blue Chinese ceramic mug.
“No wonder your arms hurt. You are always writing and never resisting.”
I’m not writing anymore. I’m witnessing. Being sensitive. A surgeon from Nepal has come to install a Senso-Meter behind my sternum. It’s a routine operation but painful. There are drugs involved. A perk.
“It’s not so much the pain of the surgery but the recovery that tries one’s soul. Why do you allow this?”
What else am I to do? I haven’t the money to find love or buy it. I haven’t courage to join the brave new world or leave it alone.
“Another poetic manifestation.”
Another clawing at bliss, to be more precise. You didn’t even ask.
“Let me know when you’re fully recovered. Meanwhile, can I get you anything at the store?”
I can’t resist the hot coffee or the medicine cabinet. The triangular blue pills in the medicine bottle.
Bran muffins. Diet soda. Chunk white tuna. Low fat chocolate cookies.
“I’m back!”
Staring at the door. There’s a sign on the inside: “Leave this man in peace.” I won’t go through that door for fear of disturbing this man.
“Are you feeling better?”
Thanks for asking.
Did you get me comic books? Or a copy of Penthouse. I like to look at the pictures.
But she’s forgotten the heart tucked under her arm. And we were fresh out of tissue paper. What was the point?
”The Senso-Meter. Does it work?”
The Senso-Meter makes me incapable of self-annihilation.
Who is speaking here?
I make my bed. Hang up my jacket. Turn down the heater. Put away my robe. I’m always cold unless the sun burns through the outer layer of flesh that is appearances. Unless the suns burns through the sternum and boils the blood around the Senso-Meter.
But the Senso-Meter is misfiring at this very moment. Here. Because the blood is boiling but there’s no sign of a wobbling arrow. The heart, the last heart, the final winged heart with horns and a walking stick, may not, will not survive, I’m sure of it. Revive.
“You better come up with a plan quick or else you will die.
Who is speaking here? Didn’t you read the sign on the door. “R.I.P. Leave this man in peace.”
Give this man peace. Give peace a chance.

Battery packs. Rechargeable batteries. Transformers.
I’m going to go sit outside in the sun for a while. Maybe in the garden there’s a telephone where great literature revives.
Garbage cans.
I’m getting up with the dog and going outside for a while. Maybe where the drug can decide the outcome of the slip and slide of the traveling mind.
Operating manuals. Calendars.
August 26, 2000: Cordless Integrating Answering Device with Caller ID.
“Is that you?”
Stereophonic devices that muffle the music that plays airily in a remembered mind.
Airily . . .
I want this Senso-Meter. But it is a foreign object. It functions like success at the bottom of a well. Like road-kill on banquet table. Possum on toothpick. Skunk on knapkined-lips of a dainty psychiatrist re-crossing her legs around the prospect of a Manhattan skyscraper.
Not for the faint of heart.
“What are you waiting for? Why don’t you go outside and sit in the garden. Or down to the beach and let the ocean blow through you.”
I’m just about to do that. Take a shower and drink from the probable cause . . .
But first I must save everything.

Begin with The Book.
“I was just about to do that.”
Poems dedicated to Gregory Corso coming in the mail. Gregory dying from cancer. Hermes is Gregory. Gregory is Nuncio. Has tumorous wings on his shoes.
“Unruly magic in his hollow bones.”
Poems fly from New York to San Francisco. In the light of fading powers. Sublime, eternal powers.
Gregory’s fate not tied to postal service. The messenger not working for the government. The messenger is magician with other ways of working. Though nothing should be ruled out when magic is put to a purpose.
“Or not”.
Walking with the living dead.
Hi, I said. Waving my hands across their glazed gaze, the undead dead haze. I’m sure they were aware of it just had something else on their mind. Weighing them down. Preoccupied.
Living with the dead. Walking on the moon. Bumper cars on Mars. Wake up and smell the roses. They are plastic pinwheels and smell like hoses in a suburban rain. Sprinklers play John Lennon songs on Sundays accompanied by church music and the Appalachian Mountaineer Glee Club.
Mystery kept in motion.
A sad commentary on physics.
The flight of stones, agate, and molecular bits and pieces threatening to blow up this world we’re talking about. Unless we map it quick.
Mars and the living dead. Cigars from pre-revolution Cuba smoking from his head. He spits in the streets and looks uphill as the trolley rolls back down and crushes his alligator shoes. Another species lost.
Map those meteorites and comets quick or we are done for any day eventually and inevitably. Make laser guns and pinpoint razor bombs to annihilate small buildings headed our way.
Better do it now.

He “lives with a clam in a shell”.
No wonder there’s no time for pure thoughts or empty mind.
The dictionary fat and red doesn’t know everything. But ponders and lumbers.
No wonder there is no time for silent contemplation and complacent blindness without near death experience from sexual exhaustion.
Mars. Meteorites.
Heavenly orbs.
Sometimes brighter than the sky.
Sometimes an effort.
Right here on the desk.
An old address book that has lost its front page and numbers to the weariness of calling out. When nothing else seemed to matter.
A new address book purchased in a moment of renewed hope. That hasn’t got enough numbers yet to be everything and more than the dog-eared old address book. It’s still becoming.
The traveling mind. Traveling over the face of things. The fabric of phenomena. Shoelaces. Weary carpet.
Right here beneath my slippers. Not slippers that send me perilously sliding over body sprinkled tiles, fresh out of the shower of . . . sends me flying.
The new slippers lined with wool. Reliable leathered soles on reliable feet that have become reliably sensitive. I know they’re sensitive because I wear these feet regularly.
To that I speak.
Of sensitive feet. Of plugs to printers, scanners, tendons that spasm to shadowy output of unquestionable genius.
“Now that we have that settled . . .”
In that you must believe otherwise you ought to get a new hairdresser.
“I did.”
Then just don’t cut it. It looks better long.
“But it gets in my face. My hair is heavy. It gives me a headache.
Getting back to the moment.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. Looking in my wallet for the diagnosis. Impingent tendonitis-- shoulders. For the remedy. Prescription for physical therapy two times a week for a month. Laced with Vicodin.
Pharmaceutical solutions are often the best solutions.

A weak bladder. I go back into my files. August 12, 2000: “If I hurt someone/ Afraid of myself/Reading a book/Writing/ Selling a can of worms/Condom. ------------------------

BOOK (in four chapters).
1)The Traveling Mind. 2) Living With The Dead. 3)Afterthoughts from the Afterworld. 4)”Solemn Fudge”. ------------------------

Afterthoughts from the Afterworld like double jeopardy. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.\
Go backwards then forward filling in.
Afterthoughts like regrets in a place where nothing can be expressed towards a purpose. Unless there’s another where to go. Another place of purpose. A beyond afterworld. A world for the living to go on living with the walking dead.
There is another world. There must be just to keep the ball rolling here.
“Here I am”.
I knew you’d be sooner or later.
“And the afterworld?”
It’s a real dream, I swear! I didn’t make it up. I didn’t imagine it.
“What does it look like?”
Just you sit down. It will be right here.
Drive-Thru Absolution. Drive-Thru Limbo. Drive-Thru Reconciliation…
Another idea to calcify the heart. Run the bloodstream through with cholesterol and aggression.
“You are morbid”.
Not really. It’s just that the circus is adding rings. Three rings. Nine rings. Twelve ring circus. Blown like bubbles through a plastic hoop on a stick after a Drive-Thru Bubble bath. Kaleidoscopic lightwaves under the Very Big Top.
“You’re cruel.”
I’m not intentionally cruel. More like something uncontrollably moves through me. Poisonous infiltration in a blind fury. Seeks exit at my mouth. Dry mouth. Singing gums and lips. Chapstick lipped. Chancre mouth.
Or screams through my torso towards extremities. Tree top limbs until it finds arms, browning leaves, reddening orange-gold leaves, my fingers. Headed toward those waving appendages. Falsely, affected, effeminate appendages.
I try to stop the acidic torrent, bile. It’s a mind working on its own, a virus downloaded from a genetic mutation, instruction from another afterworld, inflames tendons in shoulders. Cramps in my biceps, eddying cramps numb my wrists. My fingers whisper kindness because I was taught to be good.
Isn’t that enough! Isn’t that enough suffering and imagination!
“Question or exclamation?”
Evidence in the depth of leaf fall.
The assumption of regrets in a world assumed to resist, regret, exist. That there is heaven. Or bliss dome. Dustbin. Gloom home. Hell hole. Slop bowl. Another side from here where things can be considered and reconsidered from.
Gold light. Blue light. Measuring the intensity. Vicodin kicks in. Black arrow on Senso-Meter spinning wildly searching for an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Red Light. An enactment of love embrace in water-soaked luminosity of ghost figures writhing in yellow smoke light . . . drowning the government official, the general and the author of sublime fudge.
An assumption. How can you not question?

“Sublime Fudge”. Chapter
It isn’t easy teaching a gorilla eating manners. It’s easier to teach a chimp. “But the dog comes back when I call. Most of the time”.
And if I’m there I’m only somewhere else not being entirely like I used to be. Not dead. Only
Screaming at the heat. In a heat. That is how it becomes. Blow on it. Blow on that spoon of chowder. Watch those tender lips. That small tongue split at the road not taken flashing back into the gullet of drizzling horror. Watch the roof of your mouth before taking in the soup. Some experiments just don’t work out.
. . . regretting.
The dead are incapable of
regret. Death cannot contain the passion of regret. Or memory. Death comes over and over. Again as defined by metaphysical laws. And therefore there’s no death at all and only catch-all appointment for unbearable transitions. Hyperbole.
Death is the window I’m looking through. Living on either side. While others walk in the mire of sublime fudge. My product and the product of their own efforts to make sense of the impossible. Plan. Scheme.
Open or closed. Transparent. Opaque. Curtained to create an inert space between being and being. So that being in one case is warmer than being in another case.
I want to feel good about myself without feeling horny. I’m taking control. Afterthoughts. Trolling off the back of a boat in a junk yard of dreams.
“Who is steering?” Through this sublime fudge, the propeller turning, the line running out, rod tip bending against the drag of dusk.
“Who is steering?” Boils of chocolate and lies.
I am
. “Where to?”
Why ask, isn’t it enough you get to go fishing. Now sit up in your chair and take a deep breath and be grateful, any moment, chance or serendipity may yield a glorious manifestation.
“Like what?”
Where’s your sense of adventure?
Six wings on a drill bit articulated bodiform sweating honey in moonblue radiance. Eyes approximately six feet from the rotating form wavering ganglion with synaptical aptitude emitting a whale-like song with bat-like intuition at frequencies only a Labrador retriever can hear when it has a mind to. Absentee landlordship in silky aura.
“So where’s the practical component?”
If you were interested in money you should never have gotten involved with a poet.
“I didn’t make that choice”.

My personal forest on the other side of the window. This side.
Flashcard. Storyboard. Day long. Night long.
Sunny day. Foggy day. Half sunny, half foggy day.
Inside or out. One way or the another.
Puppets. Stick figures.
Long day inside or out. One way or another.
Not enough visits.
“Are ou feeling better?”
I always feel better when I’m not thinking about feeling. But now that you remind me my, fucking arm is killing me.
“Poor baby.”
Is possible.
not another chapter.
a possible
Long side. Outside. Day puppets. Night figures. Night sticks. Day trips.
Apparatus. Money. Apparatus. Apple sauce. Apparatus. Parachute. Apparatus. Hat rack.
Climax a possible boredom not another chapter: Boredom is possible. Boredom. Another way of getting on the other side of the apparatus. The afterthought. The sublime fudge. Living with the dead. Walking around the imagination. The traveling mind
. But the protagonist can’t seduce the protagonist without becoming invisible.
Boxers and promoters.
Trainers and impresarios.
Heroes and thugs.
Chris Dundee. Ira Cohen.
“And don’t forget about me.”
You? You are benevolent but cold. But there is a shortage of benevolence these days. That’s a backhanded compliment true.
But you are not cold because you are heartless. Only uncomfortable accessing your feelings.
“That’s true.”
There’s someone I must call.

BOOK I [fill in here] 15

THE TRAVELING MIND [fill in here] 16

“I will find the records. I didn’t throw them out. I’m sure I just put them somewhere."
Okay, you find the records. I’ll put them together.
“In your own classic way.”
In my way . . .
There’s a job I have to complete that doesn’t interest me anymore. No one is waiting or expects me to complete the job.
Tapes. Cassette tapes. Interviews.
It’s only for myself. I expect. And I’m waiting for myself to complete something I have set myself up to do.
“And humanity. History.”
Afterthoughts from the afterworld for the afterworld. Where I will think about it again with a heart full of regrets. And never the least bit dead.
I’m almost there.
“I am going to work.”
But I’m not there and don’t know when I’m likely to be there.
If ever.
Waiting for the present to come on. Right here in the very moment. At the core of this so called death. Call it death or be a liar.
So I’m writing it down.
An untimely occupation.
Not what I haven’t done. But what I should do. Because it’s time. To do that.
Writing it down is my job. Over and over again. My job.

“When are you going to write another novel?” That question is enough to kill inspiration.
Reputation building. Resume reality. Academic contribution or guilt by association. Someone should underwrite the underground. You’ve already dispersed before you’ve gathered. A publication relations campaign.
I saw something strange but I am not sure what to think about it.
I love my job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Is what I’ve been telling myself for 30 years.
Now I have a mind to change my mind. Imagine that.


Michael Rothenberg is a poet, songwriter, and editor and also co-founder of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else. He has published several poetry books: What The Fish Saw (Twowindows Press, CA, 1984), Nightmare Of The Violins (Twowindows Press, CA, 1986), Man/Woman (Big Bridge Press, CA, 1988), Favorite Songs (Big Bridge Press, CA, 1990), Lindsay's Book (Big Bridge Press, CA, 1999), and The Paris Journals (Fish Drum, Inc. 2000). He recently edited Overtime: Selected Poems of Philip Whalen (Viking Penguin, 1999). His novel Punk Rockwell was published by Tropical Press.

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