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excerpts from The Real and False Journals, Book I
by Michael Rothenberg

 

I started this journal the night before Philip died and finished it a year and a half later, on a clear Fall day, after spreading Philip's ashes under the snowy peak of Mt. Hood.

REFLECTION

Swimming in pool
               this morning it occurs to me
                               Philip has become the pool

RYUFU-INN

Phone rings in the hospice room
"Martians!" I say
"Nonsense! There are no Martians," says Philip
"What about those tiny little creatures that live in the ice?"
"That's different. They don't know they're Martians."
Seated beside Philip, Michael Wenger says,
"They've been brain-washed"
Philip says, "Don't trip over the scaffolding"

February 13, 2001

ROSEMARY CLOONEY DIED TODAY

I'm in a hurry with no place to go
I'm here, it's here, not there, but here
Burning incense 10:29 am, Sunday
morning, rain, rain, come this way
mind o mind float away.... "krishna lila"
by dj Cheb i Sabbah, put me to sleep
last night when I thought I'd never stop
running the tap, frozen in sleepless
headlights. Everyone should know
I was there for him. I was monkey son
and hope I didn't hurt him
not sitting with him
every remaining departing moment

Separation and exile

He complained about being alone
but knew it was nothing unique
moment to moment, each breath
and thought breaking apart, the delicacy
of regrouping those thoughts into
a concoction, to consume once again

Agates, buddhas, books and very little else
over 78 years, but tons of friends
Who admired him, never knew
how to talk to him, or ways to take care of him
Protect him in his grand vulnerability
He was after all a cranky guy but so what
if that was his worst aspect then give me more Philips

Banquets of Philips
Trees of peach Philip fruit
Tomes of Philip
Philip zones
Philip barks and howls and
groans to populate the thickening silence
Philip silence and Philip pause
Philip face distorting
to punctuate the situation
Philip ears and images

What a handsome fatman, handsome boob
handsome vegetable, handsome meat
Picture him and my mother
talking from one hospital bed in Miami to another
hospital bed in San Francisco. Two handsome cranks
both sure how this miserable story would end

HOLY POETS

Chose my society and temple outside convention
So did the daughters of Charles Manson
Empty the temple of Masters right now
Disciples and students better get a job

Cluttering street corners with idle talk about Being and underwear
Thong. Raksu. Silicone implants. Reversible Buddhas
Squeeze it or bow. Three hugs. Three deep squeezes
Hugs. Hugs. Bald detached indifferent mugs

Off the beach blanket a go-go
Back to work in Babylon
Building a better tomorrow, all of it, today!

Who needs hope?
I couldn't have loved you more
You were my baby and father
Mother and son. Friend and teacher
Partner in a vaudeville routine
The other shoe dropping

ANIME

Confucianism. Tantrism
Beatnik booboo

Boob. Blockhead. Baby
Rainstorms on the run

Intuition. Great intuition

"The intuitions of creative imagination as expressed
in the cosmic revelations of the philosophic and religious
mystics, and even in the less generic visions of the
great poets, owe their grandeur and uniqueness to the fact
that in them the subconscious functions more spontaneously,
more nearly as a unified whole. In normal experience
intuition is the servant of the specific, external situation,
and there is evoked only that part of the subconscious
which is relevant to that situation, while in real mystic
intuition the inner self in its entirety is the controlling factor."
--- William Pepperell Montague

Spaghetti and chicken. Chocolate cake and Cherry Garcia.
Metropolis anime.

DEAD PIGEONS

Sorry about the dead pigeons
The scratched marble
Broken ice machine
Damaged window springs

I should live in a hut

My son says his grandma
never walked in this apartment
She floated through it
I wish I could afford a housekeeper

The carpet needs shampooing

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Between "attachment and realization."
36,000 feet above the clouds
Pilot says it's overcast in SF
Turkey-ham sandwich dinner
Heading west. Granolaheads
Hollywood airheads
Republicans. Golden Gate Bridge
under protection of National Guard
high alert, measure to prevent
terrorist attack Golden Gate Park
"Cherry blossoms about to bloom."

Reading The Zen Poetry of Dôgen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal
Peace
, I wonder if Philip would approve.

Above Colorado, smoke from burning
forest inside jet plane. It's impossible
to avoid, but there's nothing to be afraid of
It could be cherry blossoms, gardenias
purple orchids with freckles

I called Philip from Pennsylvania last year
sitting on the porch I gave an account
of apple orchards, peacocks in the garden
corn fields, walnuts falling black
explosions on the aluminum roof
As I went on, he said, "That's enough."

AND THIS

repairs on Triborough bridge to
Madison and 95th Bill's apartment
swiss cheese sandwich
High finance til 2am restless til 4

Iraq target for US terrorism
Israelis seize Arafat compound
Another suicide bomber from Hamas
Who exploits whom to destroy peace process first?

Come a long way to be in the same place
Is this change?

Michael Largo writes, "It's funny
how people don't like to think about death,
speak of it with euphemisms"

Kick the bucket,
cross over to the other side,
to depart, be taken away,
give up the ghost,
to meet the Maker,
turn up the toes,
be stiff as a poker,

dead as a doornail,
to become brown bread,
wasted, whacked, smoked,
to sleep with the fishes,
sing the swan song,
go six feet under,

bite the dust, put on the wooden overcoat,
pass on or sleep with Jesus,
buy the farm, hand in your chips,
get promoted to upper management,
or go permanently out of print."

Is this change?
Always.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHILIP

50 crows
squawk in the palm tree
down below

I can see them from the balcony
Which one is you?

TIME LAPSE

Go down to other side of the pool
                             if you're going to splash
                                               splash, splash, splash!

Philip Whalen by Nancy Victoria Davis Philip Whalen by Nancy Victoria Davis Cosmos & Michael Rothenberg, Philip Whalen, & Joanne Kyger by Nancy Victoria Davis
Michael Rothenberg & his son Cosmos, Philip Whalen, & Joanne Kyger.
Cosmos Rothenberg & Philip Whalen by Nancy Victoria Davis
Cosmos Rothenberg & Philip Whalen

all photos by Nancy Victoria Davis


Michael Rothenberg Michael Rothenberg has been an active environmentalist in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 25 years. His books of poems include Favorite Songs, Nightmare of the Violins (Twowindows Press), The Paris Journals (Fish Drum), Grown Up Cuba (Il Begatto Press, Amsterdam), Monk Daddy (Blue Press) and Unhurried Vision (La Alameda Press). Rothenberg is editor and publisher of Big Bridge, www.bigbridge.org. He is also editor of Overtime, Selected Poems by Philip Whalen (Penguin), As Ever, Selected Poems by Joanne Kyger (Penguin) and is presently working on David's Copy, Selected Poems by David Meltzer.

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