Michael Rothenberg: Bozo the Slick

  Michael Rothenberg

  Bozo the Slick


I will not follow
The plot of a narcissistic madman
Reliving fabricated war stories
In a Napa swimming pool

He sells revolution like Willie Loman

In a shuttle bus from Fiumicino Airport
On my way to Rome Central Train Station

And then to Napoli…


A failed script, obsolete play book
Paternalistic name-dropper
Small town opera star with bad teeth

He should give up and go into retirement
Nobody believes in him
Or his phony Hollywood-style

At Teatro San Carlos the dilettante is a flop
And what’s worse he doesn’t
Really believe in change

He’s an opportunist
Who always needs to feel important
A politician that wants to be an onion

              Eventualist, Enabler, Fraud

Every action a salve upon
His failed self

Maybe he’s a cop!


Is that the Coliseum or an ancient jumpy house
Managed by a gladiator from Burger Chef?

Is that the Forum or his vanity
Smeared over broken bowels, skinny
Spotted legs stuffed into teenage blue jeans?

It’s difficult to grow old with dignity
So he calls the Attorney General
Makes plans for a compromised peace
With the Department of Injustice

Then runs from the plain Truth
When the mirror plays back
His pathetic, lightless regime
Baby Mussolini!


I would rather be in Postiglione
Fighting the good fight
With Valeriano, Filippo, and Terri
Espresso in one hand, zeppela in the other

The taste so sincere…


Virgil, in Bucoliche, saw this mountain
Long before the bakery opened downtown

We walk over to the supermarket
Buy some pancetta, cherry tomatoes, ricotta tart
Charcoal to grill fresh sausages
Peach jam for breakfast


Bozo The Slick
He’s been nobody his whole life
Tells you what he thinks you want to hear
So you’ll purchase his particular brand of laxative
With a knot in his tongue here comes the pitch


In Postiglione

Bill Evans plays in the kitchen
Outside the windows’ blue moon
Skies around the rocky peaks
A wine-soaked phantasm
Breaks the code


Virgil saw this mountain

There was a thunderstorm pelted
The terra cotta shingles
We shivered through the Amalfi night
In a house built in 700 AD
In a town built long before the redwoods


He’s a jester in tailored shirts and mod coiffure
What is he saying exactly?
A broken hero who sells courage
Without justice?

A cannibal and poser
Who feeds on your dreams
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Who celebrates in collateral damage
A savior on hunt for medals


Custard-stuffed croissant

In my heart
I am looking for a cologne that smells like fresh
Baked bread when the loaf is first divided
There’s a crunch when you bite down
And the fragrance is one of veracity

Ten thousand miles from a
Two-faced clown, Postiglione
Salerno, Cava de’ Tirreni, Naples, Amalfi, Pompeii
Temple of Venus and Hercules
Everywhere, a thousand other places
Beautiful and true, even in Rome
Far from a doctored and circus fiction.

             — May 14, 2014

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