Friday, November 14, 2014

Michael Rothenberg


Curtains closed on sparkling Miami nightlife
Strange youth overcomes me
Calls me to visit Mt. Nebo Cemetery

Grampa Sam the bookie
Buried beside Grandma Ida
Who made the juiciest hamburgers

Grandpa Harry the loan shark
Buried beside Grandma Ethel
Who died of insulin shock

And Dad, an attorney and real estate developer
In his polished granite loft

The unmarked slot beside him
Reserved for my asthmatic mother
Who always wanted to be a sculptor

And 100 feet west of my blood
A suicide, Lindsay, my first love

O, Princess of Broken Vows
I’m here again
With your inconstant bones

To see what nightmare goes walking
Through geranium, hibiscus and oleander

To revisit silky oils and perfume
Patchouli, French powders

Mascara stains on tear soaked corners of
A goose down comforter

You call me back to the panic of a new moon
Our last Coconut Grove reunion

After a college rendition of Hair

We drove back to my flat
Fell inside each other

Music deepened the senses, deepened confession

You flailed for possessions

Boys were leashed
But you couldn’t sort out Truth
From imported shoes, stuffed toys
Or costume jewelry

When tremors racked your body
Wealth pulled you down

Now plastic flowers adorn your epitaph
Mt. Nebo 3 a.m.

Dad’s reddened ears
A man and his Scotch
Elbows on the wobbling bar of
The Embers
Orating off-color jokes
In a highbrow circus of diamond mirrors
Crystal chandeliers

And Lindsay, you were always there
Just a few deaths away

From my father’s bad heart
Floating beside me

Under mother’s fresh quilts
The gentle pause of your hand
Over my thighs

Clouds danced

A zodiac of rooster, rabbit, bagel and lox

We pulled our bodies closer

Condensations of stilt-rooted islands
Blue jeans pushed hastily to bed’s tight tuck

When a tropical storm came up
Stripped coconuts from the trees
And the trees bowed in supplication

We said it wasn’t really making love

Then with black angry eyes
You taught me about broken vows

With suntanned boys
Who flew south for the winter
From New Jersey or New York

Lies and seduction
That was only the beginning

The heart lives with lies
And dies with compromise

On my knees at Mt. Nebo, 3 a.m.
Where Father drunk and proud can hear me pray

Where my Princess of Broken Vows lies
Between bays, crystal skies, palms and pearls

Where the body belongs to no one to hold too long


(c) Michael Rothenberg

Previously published as an unfinished draft on Karl Young's Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry


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