Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Hand Held Out

Dennis Schmitz, reading at Sac. Poetry Center
last Monday, Sept. 22
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Here I am in Sonoma County
by the Russian River
working on a screen play
being a ghost writer
for the first time
in my young life
amid a nervous morning
with uptight directors
reading their tarot
before the academy awards
counting on their fortune
with their silent film looks
in hairbreadths of knowledge
and a jetty of insults
directed at other egos,
only wishing Judy Garland
were here
from the Wizard of Oz
whom I once met
at the Punchbowl
back East in Boston
with her needled arm
to cradle you
in your own self pity
of sorrowful blood
yet who sang for me
"I believe in you"
after the crowds left
the bar, not of justice
but of escape,
and now I meet a runaway
from Yorba Linda High
who tells me
she can't go on much more
and suddenly I burst out
into Judy's song
and we save each other
as I lean across her body
on a two-pronged path
and tell her
she is an angel sent to me
and we survive another day.


—B.Z. Niditch

I read in a Gideon Bible
commentary on a cot
where Kerouac slept
for a few nights
that the great Moses
the law giver
gave his kid the name
which means "stranger"
since his wife was
of a different people
than his own
since Moses too was
once upon a time an exile
a stranger in a strange land.
I asked a rabbi and priest
what the lesson was
and they taught me
to save others and rescue
the lost in this world
by knowing we were once
strangers to people
estranged from God,
and we should welcome
new people to our land
and make them feel at home.


—B.Z. Niditch

Nights when I wore
my blue beret
all the time
devouring a croissant
after playing the role
of a dandy
in a French comedy
I met Mona
near a fire hydrant
up on Nob Hill
going to pose
for a painter
it seemed
she had a devotion to.
It was slightly raining
and two show dogs
passed us by
in the wink of an eye
by imaginary light
she caught up with me
translated in the dark
of congealed voices
and showed me
her photos
reminding me
of a famous painting
saying the artist
could not live with
or without her.
I had my Gibson guitar
in my intolerable bag
by the evaporating traffic
and played for her,
later in the week
she confessed
of her needing help
and the Samaritans
whose number I carried
having once met to interview
for my college thesis
the kindly Monica Dickens,
the Samaritan founder
and a descendent of Charles,
who came to her rescue
I now know Mona
you were observed
by a higher power.

 Douglas Blazek was the other reader
at SPC last Monday night
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—B.Z. Niditch

Exiled in his vision
from the train,
telling me his story
of a Russian exiled pianist
with exhaustive memory
let me put him up
for the night
at my friend Maura's loft
since she was in rehearsal
near Warhol's factory
in the days when people
helped others,
those Sixties' nights
with flower children
by secret Zen gardens,
when peace was more
than a concept
for the general will
because our kids
were missed
and dying overseas
in an undeclared war.
I got Sasha his first job
of playing in a Big Apple Club
with a four-handed piano gig
breathing in a new life
and making a new friend.


—B.Z. Niditch

He was cold
in my life jacket
by the gazebo
the strong light
from high-tide currents
between the islands
of seaweed shadows
telling me in my kayak
near the tall grass dunes
he wanted
to be a Kerouac
having read his chart
in the morning paper,
with an eavesdrop of memory
in the Cape Cod Cafe
with his third cup of latte
wishing to be someone else,
and being high
as a drop out
from high school
trying to drown himself
in the bitter tears
of a fearful adolescence
Jim, this young athletic swimmer
who just lost a first meet
to a threatening bully,
reaches out to me
with an all-American smile.
I hand him some brie
and put on radio jazz,
five years later I hear
from the town gossips
Jim was in contention
for an Olympic Medal.


—B.Z. Niditch

This woman
in dizzying red,
fearful of flying,
weeping in laughter
on a bench,
sitting as in oblivion
by an ambulance
having taken so many pills
before the midnight flight
yet managing to roll
a Dutch cigarette,
hides her red pocketbook
and a Spanish shawl.
I play a Madrid love song
for Pillar
in the intermezzo hours
finding out from a TV reporter
who was high himself
she was a diva
on the San Francisco opera scene
she calmed down
with the blues arrangement
as I rehearsed for her
as a minority of one
and had a great gig
that weekend
knowing one hand held out
may wash another one.


Today's LittleNip:
Poetry rescues us from the reality of either boredom or frivolity; it saves us for a life's discovery.
—B.Z. Niditch


Poets will be saddened to hear that Poet Laureate Emeritus of Sacramento José Montoya passed away last night, September 25. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.


San Francisco as seen across the Bay from Tiburon,
scene of last week's America's Cup
—Photo by Michelle Kunert