Michael Rothenberg
My Youth
as a Train

Michael Rothenberg

Lives, deaths, travels-in Michael Rothenberg's poems there is a sense of an uncharacteristically benign Chronos smiling down upon it all, through the ever more rapidly speeding clouds of the 21st century. Riding along, down below, we see the music and hear the land, sipping on a goblet of that sweet synesthesia.

                                   - Anselm Hollo

Engaged, inventive, playful, passionate, poetry for everyperson at a time when many north american poets are managing performance or funding empires or writing oddly obligatory forms of gibberish.  Michael's poems sing, instruct, surprise within constant awareness of our species' absurd, precarious rush towards extinction.  A new wave of comprehensible, activist art is coalescing around this work.

- Harris Schiff

My Youth As A Train is a spiritual romp across America:  boxing, boardwalks, beaches, baked hams, biscuits, Barbasol, and blue herons-a mirror of a life lived with peaked awareness fully inhabiting each immediate environment, embodying each moment.  The richest details accumulate and fall in layers as Rothenberg's fast moving images and thought fragments create a mind movie of perceptions prying our eyes and hearts open.

- Wanda Phipps

This train may be bound for glory, but Michael Rothenberg, like Woody, like Whitman's "sun falling round a helpless thing," excludes no one. Onboard you'll find ramblers and gamblers, boxers and Buddhists, cosmic jokers and midnight tokers, all in the shadow of Twin Towers/Twin Peaks Golgotha America. Plus perhaps the greatest poem written about fly fishing since Brautigan, if not Izaak Walton.

                              - John Roche

From the book:


Between huge blanket of black clouds
and ragged graymouth of cityscape
Eye of green morning light

Wind raking bay (thunder hum) thrashing voice
of branches & leaves

Storm blown away
for another more pleasant distortion
   Not boredom
           but interest in someone not found here

Two pelicans
too far away to know what they're doing
I put on my glasses
         Three pelicans, four, seven

any amount of floating & flight, even that jet plane
going the other way

    November 13, 2002


Attack, terrorist attack
Coffee spills on the floor

The clothesline drips with the puppeteer's soul

Bombs, fireballs, ground zero, body bags
Ten thousand deaths, invisible, lidless

A glass breaks in the sink
With peels and mushy fruit

Separate the waste and contemplate the loss


In crisis I seek isolation

While skull-faced children search for their fathers
In the rubble of alcohol and war

Mothers raped in the name of the holy mother

A shadow recites the Lord's Prayer
Masturbates to a photograph of a tantric goddess

God never answers


Apocalypse, doomsday, end of time

Waves thunder “On The Beach”


The telephone rings, rings, rings
“Hello, Sweetie, what are you doing?”
Peeing off the deck to save water
The world is coming to an end


We should have torn the fences down
While we had the chance
Rebuilt the temple with apples and honey
Fasted and prayed

The towers have fallen
I'm nobody I've ever known
Going home
The only one on the plane
Philadelphia to Reading

On TV the program called “Attack on America”
is replaced with “America At War”.

 September 19, 2001

Michael Rothenberg was born and raised in Miami Beach. He is a poet, songwriter, and founding editor and publisher of Big Bridge, www.bigbridge.org. His books of poems include What The Fish Saw (Twowindows Press), Nightmare of The Violins (Twowindows Press), Favorite Songs (Big Bridge Press), Man/Women, a collaboration with Joanne Kyger (Big Bridge Press), The Paris Journals (Fish Drum Press), Grown Up Cuba (Il Begatto Press), Monk Daddy (Blue Press), Epigenesis on Temple Mount (dPress), Unhurried Vision (La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press), and most recently Choose (Big Bridge Press). He is also author of the eco-spy thriller Punk Rockwell (Tropical Press). Michael Rothenberg has edited the selected works of Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer and Edward Dorn for the Penguin Poets series, and The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen (Wesleyan University Press). He currently lives in the redwoods of Northern California.

My Youth as a Train is an 80 page hand-stitched paper book with spine - $16.00

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