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21 April 2014

Things in Light Poetry Series 2014: Michael Rothenberg

Rudolfo Carrillo


Invisible trombone combo, hippodrome, stone palindrome, homonym, anomaly, family tree.

Leaf blown off the deck into the moon.

Bloom, bone, rune, sewn, scar, fume, star, tune, serial disruption.

Mariachis on the wall of the many living waters.

Corridors of censure. Closure. Soldiers. Blood and oil wars. Boulders and skin, sloughed. Mechanisms of cacophony. Towers of rabble. Drivel, rubble, ruffle, dibble, dabble, rifle, riffle. Riff raff. Corn dogs and pollywogs.

A thrilling roller coaster ride breaks from its rolling tracks.

Dives, leaps, towards an astral attraction, across the zenith.

Of the living room.

Silver spoon. Destiny and coincidence.

You make the worst and most of your wayward dreams.

Gleeners, DNA, ecology, cataclysmic chaos and birth. Evolutionary dental floss, apology, string theory, calliope. Calliopic blues.

Love goes around the corner for a Margarita.


In Miami Beach in 1973, at a cocktail party at my next door neighbor’s house, I heard that Buddy Zoloth, my brother’s high school friend, had disappeared. His mother and father mingled at the party looking unusually sad as if life had lost all meaning. Rumor was that Buddy headed out west and died from an overdose and no one knew how to contact his family. Some friends thought maybe he was kidnapped and murdered. He just dropped off the face of the earth. His parents never heard from him again. 

40 years later I see Buddy’s picture on the Internet. He looks happy enough, reading a newspaper on a jet plane with Stephen Stills. He’d become a successful road manager in the 70’s for several world famous Rock & Roll bands, including Manassas and Rita Coolidge. He seems to have had a nice loving family and was highly respected by his peers in the music industry.  A legend.

But of course, shit does happen. Five years ago Buddy died from liver cancer at 59. Some say he deserved what he got but I’m not sure of that. I saw a comment like this on a memorial page online. He pissed off an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife. There was talk of guns and drugs and abuse. She was glad he was dead.

Interesting footnote is that last year someone found Buddy’s address book from the 1970’s while cleaning out a garage in LA. They tried to sell it for a “million dollars” to Pawn Stars, a television pawn shop program. But the telephone numbers for Neil Young, Grace Slick, Keith Richards, The Who and Elton John were no longer in service. So while this was a curious and compelling piece of memorabilia it was finally worthless. The Pawn Stars could find no buyers.

RIP Buddy. Good to hear you didn’t disappear and die young.  Though you didn’t live very long. You just lived and died sooner or later like everyone else. But I wonder what happened to your parents.


The Weather Bureau predicts snow at sea level today or tomorrow. It’s pretty fucking cold. I’m going to walk the dog.


O beautiful madrone! O, beautiful rain! I like it here in Guerneville.

I’m kind of a hippy. Yes, I burn incense. When I’m out of breath it helps me catch my breath. Obsessions go up in smoke.

A pneumonic device. O, yes. Like Bells. O, yes, I remember them both. The bells and incense. Remember it all. Obsessions. Midnight forests drenched in white moonlight. Flowers and sunlight. Daylight Savings Time. Woohoo!

On the roof deck I smoke a bowl of Northern California pot.  Here comes the wisteria! The buds are fat and all over the place. I don’t see the difference between a Jew and
a Buddhist. I’m neither one of them, or both. It’s like having
a squirrel and a marching brass band in your head. Religion. Phooey!

O, beautiful rain! Beautiful madrone!
O, rosy Calypso orchid splash in the mush.
Sip some mango juice. Imagine Japan.
Poor Japan.


I know the names but not the sad, sad mistaken faces. Count them. Pale plastic shells, hallowed shards, blunt-edged puzzle pieces, dioramic snapshots. Count them. Reach myopic odyssey. Fabulous sideways fiction. Climb on board. Sign them in. Count them. Saintly numbers. Multitudes. Walt! Yeah, Karaoke Multitudes...

He’s a real bad dog (not a real dog) and this wanna be hound wants to shit on our velvet roses. Wants his balls scratched all fucking daylong, barks and whines to be taken out at 2am so he can piss on himself. He’s an absolute digression.

While one more oil soaked coral wilts in vertigo of yellow moonlight, glorious flower hacks its petals into desolate fall, 20 thousand Rockhopper penguins burst into acid flames on Tristan Da Cunha Islands, another benzene starlight plume seeps and scars an oceanic paradise...

I hear them cry, folks on the Gulf of Mexico Coast. Bubbly white rashes head to toe, spit up grit and blood, shout about jobs. Not enough of them jobs! I hope they understand what they’ve signed up for. Corporate slavery toiling in the bowels of extinction. Howl on you bloody petroleum slaves. I love you but as far as I can see there’s nothing I can do to help.

Sad faces in rain. Sushi foodies. Pacifist trolls garden the last sustainable feast of plutonium lettuce, pedigreed bok choy and electric radishes. Gardeners, I admire your cultured pacifism, yes, but you move too slowly in your haiku.

Is this where the massacre continues? Sociopathic brainwaves. Diastolic embolisms. Is it positive change?
Is it any kind of change? Should poetry and politics mix or be kept separate, like urine and strawberries, as if politics were something else besides what we’ve become, or what we believe in, or who we are?


Sure, Death, I understand
You have a bad cancer

Agoraphobic, paralyzed
Broke, starved

Dissolute and wasted
It’s no joke

Salmonella in the driveway
and I can’t get it started


Born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1951, Rothenberg moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975 and co-founded Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica, which is dedicated to the cultivation of orchids and bromeliads. While in Pacifica, he helped lead local environmental actions that stopped major coastal developments that would destroy wildlife habitat.

His poems have been widely published in literary reviews such as Exquisite CorpseMudlarkGolden Handcuffs ReviewHouse Organ,JacketORPrague Literary ReviewSycamore Review,Tricycle, and Zyzzyva.

His editorial work includes several volumes in the Penguin Poets series:Overtime by Philip Whalen, As Ever by Joanne Kyger, David’s Copy by David Meltzer, and Way More West by Ed Dorn. He is also editor of The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen published by Wesleyan University Press. His poetry books include The Paris Journals (Fish Drum Press), Unhurried Vision (La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press),My Youth As A Train (Foothills Publishing), Choose (Big Bridge Press) and Murder (Paper Book Press). He is also the author of the eco-spy novel Punk Rockwell.

Rothenberg’s most recent book of poems is Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story published in 2013 by Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, B.C., Canada.Indefinite Detention is scheduled for publication in 2014 by both Shabda Press (USA) and Al Kotob Khan (Cairo, Egypt) in an Arabic/English edition, translated by El Habib Louai.

Rudolfo Carrillo / a fifth-wave feminist from the fourth estate | a burqueña | a ladyboss | a writer + editor

I am a fifth-wave feminist and a reluctant member⸺hey, Groucho knew whereof he quipped⸺of both the fourth estate and the gig economy. I am an Albuquerque-based freelance writer, editor and social media marketing and branding+PR consultant. I remain an observant ’90s riot grrrl and a devout practitioner of halfhearted yoga posturing and zen and the art of the sentence diagram.


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