June 14-20, 2004: Armin Tolentino and Chaim Rosenblum

week of June 14-20, 2004

Armin Tolentino and Chaim Rosenblum

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Armin Tolentino

Bio (auto)

Armin Tolentino is from Lincoln Park, New Jersey and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland He works as an Americorps Vista Volunteer.

The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Armin Tolentino and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Mile Zero

In Mallory Square, they watch the sunset
Which happens everywhere on this earth

But here, they observe it

The eight minutes
Before dusk is a chalice of wine,
First orange, then purple
That soaks them completely as they hold their
Lover’s hand The island is a communion wafer
And angel sightings litter the beach amongst
The cracked conch shells
On Duval Street I fell in love,
A girl who weaved necklaces with her feet
Hemp strands coarse as her dusty hair
Toes nimble like elves
Her tanned shoulders, muscular calves that
Worked like tarpon on a line
All stuck to the roof of my mouth

How long would it take to sell the house, cash the stocks,
Buy a villa with her and our children, their ambidextrous feet
Tap dancing on the sandy dock?

I knew it would never work; she was in love with
The fire eater The way her tongue crept over her lips
When she watched him, tasting the lingering bitter on
Burnt mouth; it was unmistakable

Inside him were flames; in me, just a cold sloppy
I’ve swallowed coffee, pain, painkillers, everything on the South Beach Diet
Never fire

She and the fire eater lived with six others:
A pirate, a beggar, a mime, a tightrope walker, a stripper, a deckhand They lived on ocean that was a mosaic of a trillion different dilutions
Of translucent blue green,
while my ocean was spilled cola, dark, tepid,
slashed with swirls of filmy oil

When I returned to the city, populated by suede shoes and silk ties,
I felt foolish with the gritty woven rope slung around my neck. 
I threw it in a kitchen drawer with dead batteries, broken pen parts,
And candles from birthday wishes
Long since forgotten.

A Catalog of Venomous Snakes

Part 1

In Sonoma, there are no rain clouds, the
human eye invents a vision
the mind can handle
When nerves are drawn tight, tense as harp strings
the dry earth will surely snap them,
dissonance over the mountains like a thunderclap
and then the blessed rains
Part 2
In November, I hitched from Newark,
a tick in the back seat of Chevy Novas
Seeking a plump dog named California
forty days lost in the desert
Met a man named Georgie Shoot ’em Up Outside of Borrego, my heart stopped beating. 
He said it was natural and offered me
some rattlesnake roasted on a rusted skewer

His own heart stopped beating eleven months ago, he claimed
The cardiac muscles can’t handle the heat Neither the brain, nor the lungs all wither like corn roots in a Dust Bowl
In Sonoma, a man is just skin and miles of large intestines
That if laid out, could cover the faded tar of Route 66, end to end
Just like his memories Just like my mistakes

Part 3
In his pocket, a field guide:
A Catalog of Venomous Snakes. 
Along with him, the rusted skewer, a pocket knife
Embossed with a flapping bass
Out of water, out of time. 
These were all his possessions;
And now, of course, myself

He had a guitar once,
From Mexico, but threw it
To the fire
One night in January when the desert felt like
The cold skin of the moon
And frost crystallized the cacti needles

“Don’t matter anyhow No music
can drown the songs
of cicadas at night “

Part 4
“Hate is a venom,”
he explained and I pretended to care
as he cooked us dinner The jack rabbit burned, we buried its
Head and entrails in the sand, amongst
The bones of Indian warriors

“Man can’t keep hate in Gotta drive it out,
Through a punch, a cum shot, a
Scream “

“If a snake didn’t bite
it would poison itself,
holding those toxins in its mouth
all those years “

Black rabbit flesh, the flavor burned out
Offered to the night sky
Part 5
The forty first day, I found the road to Los Angeles and walked it
Until my feet touched ocean In my pocket, a field guide:
A Catalog of Venomous Snakes,
A rusted skewer, a pocket knife

I imagine him and
the limitless sand
Nothing to fight or fuck,
Wet organs shriveled like jerky
No sound from his throat loud enough to
Overpower the insects
Wandering Sonoma
Guided by his gut,
A coiled serpent
Acidic and turning on itself.


.Everybody knows that Jesus’ last words were, “You fucking sons of bitches ” This was in Aramaic, of course; I donít remember the actual quote But that’s the loose translation It may have even been sons of goats But anyway, the gist is: Itís Good Friday, Jesus is suffering on the cross, and like the human he is, he screams out an expletive and something derogatory about the mothers of the Pharisee

.Of course, when the editors set forth on the task to put together the Bible for his Honorable King James, they tweaked the dialogue to, “Father into your hands, I commend my spirit ” Why, you ask? Because no one, not even God himself will say the right thing at the right time Because the natural order of things is towards entropy, not poetry, and carbon molecules will invariably form coal over diamonds

.And it doesn’t matter if itís Jesus or the pregnant teenager, belly swelled with guilt, facing her father, wanting to say so much as he cuts apart her self respect

.She cries stop and he wonít–nothing will stop him–and this is where her line comes in, her, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” line, but it’s choked in phlegm and tears, and all that’s left is a baby five months early like the first draft of a poem: flimsy, precious, and incapable of survival

Chaim Rosenblum


Chaim Rosenblum grew up in Southern California and attended the University of California at Santa Cruz Chaim’s poems have appeared in Lotus Blooms, Mocha Memories, Voices, and Mimaamachim
He lives with his wife and six children in live in Israel, in a community called Moshav Mevo Modiim, nestled in the Ben Shemen woods between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Chaim Rosenblum and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


knocks on my box
on my sick day from work
He’s not invited to come drink, 
bottles of red crimson
or white viscid, 
bent down
vomiting out
the grey wolf that bit me
The old hunter smiles missing teeth, 
as he lets loose his dogs
My fur unbrushed, 
run down

sits on my box
tracing my plaster cracks
I had wanted to be much more
than just a visitor to
this spacious home
for big bargains, 
a foolish idiot
falling in love with every girl
Passion released alone
Lies like red flies, 
black clouds.

Big Brother

When my big brother, Jon,
met his wife, Isabel,
Jeffrey Harrison’s other sister,
in Los Angeles,

they took ecstasy;
navigated by star map
the hills of Hollywood;
sprawled spread eagle,
sucking the glitter
off sidewalk stars
Published in the New Yorker
and Paris Review,
Jon teaches creative writing
in Santa Fe
On display in Westwood boutiques,
Isabel makes Native jewelry;
organizes one-woman shows
I dream of Jon’s hazel eyes,
dirt blonde hair Heís left-handed,
just like me
I dream of Isabel’s tender hands,
black knee-high boots
They travel to the desert,
on full moon nights in animal furs,
swallow peyote, and commune
with ancient spirits
Isabel’s pregnant She swallowed
too much sky
I found pictures
of what they look like
in Time magazine, cut them out,
and trapped them in a frame
When their baby’s born,
I’ll find a picture of her too.


Every evening,
the myopic glow of the outer eye
casts explicit shadows
on my giant pleasure dome Calypso, the goddess
of silence and death,
jiggles through the TV screen
and plants herself in my spot
My beloved’s unaware
as she’s straddled
by the arms and legs
of female dancers
curled like caterpillars
around the leaves of men
Calypso lifts her blouse
and gently pushes my face
into the cleft between her breasts “Ulysses, don’t return to Penelope
and I’ll grant you everlasting vigor “

When the images of war
lure us into the siren’s den Calypso carries me
to her island

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