Thursday, October 22, 2015

Living Lyrically

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanagan, Newton, MA


In the course of a weekend
to the North Shore
struggling with
science fiction, plays
maxims, exams,
and so much more
unable to make a prediction
with the right diction
or pretend to have
the right title on my last story
having left
with an uncorrected ending
yet back in my nest
near a chorus of sky birds
with superpower wings
having discovered
the piles of sunflower seeds
we leave for the birds
near my open porch
when needing to prune the roses
at the rock garden
here at the last hour of night
walking on the flagstones
between the roses
are two smiling guests
with half-closed eyes
who hand us more flowers
and white wine
they place on the marble table
in the scorching air
not being able
to thank and surprise me
at my last reading
having my last collection
of Everything, Everywhere
in their grateful hands
asking for my autographed signature
to sign on the dotted line
any perspective of words
for my unmasked pleasure.



The full moon enlightens us
as wet cut lemon slices
for a Japanese tea
a friend of ours
writes out my initials
on the acorn-falling oak tree
after dragging orange-red leaves
by a laughing love child
of a neighbor we know too well
in a labor of love
once orphaned and frightened
on the dry ground
almost left behind
in this close-knit road
when deer were around
wanting to make friends
as his eyes search twigs
acorns, fruits and nuts
near our picnic table
by the serious flash of wind
in the rejoined woods
under the stumps and trunk
hearing the songbird sound
with his earth-wise lyric
we fall on a blanket silent
trying to capture a picture
of this motioning landscape.


Destined to gather
in noon at the quad
you were calm from the beach
swaying on the sailboat
where waves gave you peace
here to read each other’s words
in the shadowed patience
we forget the clock
people rise
from a shut eye to watch
the conversant
or relax under a hammock
play with a jelly roll
or a spinach croissant
even chant your lines
in a thousand tongues
before you are translated
is to repent of your past
no life is outdated,
you may move
to the constant future
on outer-spaced words
or inner worlds
actually we told Boris
a new Russian student,
not to panic or fear
there is no firing squad here
even when you bare your soul
you are among friends
for to prudently express
your conscience
does not give away our silence
when understanding pretends
to ask out loud in poetry
what questions answer all
that our absence contends
with a small hidden id and ego
yet our goal is viewed beyond
giving amends to the crowd
having hid from our embryo
yet waiting to hear your verse
read from a microphone
the wisdom of Whitman, Homer
Dickinson or Sappho
in our expanding universe
from an ancient chorus or muse
or your lone voice singing
for us till now.



Not sure
if the zip-lined cable
and then a taxi city cab
would awaken me from my nap
composing a viola sonata
while asleep upon music sheets
under my Angels’ baseball cap
then rising to hear
a Bach cantata in B major
waiting for my morning cup
of green tea
with sliced dry melba toast
blueberry jam or paté
from Nana's cold jars
still on my lips
to taste a half day
as a dream confection
of Proustian repast
until my freshman visit
to the Coast for an open read
at the free library
giving me down time
to look up "Warsaw"
in a Polish dictionary
which Chopin loved
at his Parisian loft
with Georges Sand,
then I'm trying to find
on a map
"Bardstown," Kentucky
where Tom Merton
had an epiphany
from a clear voice
near an abbey and monastery
by all roads leading
to his own poet's Gethsemani
taking my own daily diary out
on my bench of reflections
at this exuberant October
my lap teeming with croissants
to share with the tiny birds
at this awesome hour
surprising myself
to discover karma
if there would ever be a witness
to my veteran crime drama
written on the city bus
for over a year
and presented to the class
would make it to off-Broadway
as I'm being made aware
of the fuss
outside a recruiting station
as two guys argue in Russian
if Tolstoy's War and Peace
was greater than any plot
devised by Dostoevsky,
thinking every encounter
addressed to the future
has caressed a past history
of a hot Beat
who keeps it going
by his good acting cast
with a misunderstood
fortune cookie on his lap
along the crunchy valley slopes
of my now-snowy childhood days
wanting to cross-country on skis
passing over the mountains
or play an alto sax at a gig
near the heavenly resort at Tahoe
watching two opposing sides
at the chess match
near a mission's fountains bench
hearing a heated argument
as their words catch up to me,
now the players link arms
asking to be engaged until noon
laughing at each other's jokes
until their dear John and Joan
love letters are within reach
in a beer bottle disposal
not burned but buried
until the year 3000 A.D.
near the sandy songbirds
who hover along the sea's beach
as this couple waves to each other
floating as my mind races
near red and orange leaves
and golden Fall mums,
I'm strumming on a Spanish guitar
given to me at the mission
to face the river beds of Autumn
fixing my motorcycle spokes
within reach
then riding away trying to believe
there is way to live lyrically
and vanish under a half moon.

(October 15, 70 B.C.-19 B.C.)

Dante, guide us again
with Virgil
through Hades, Purgatory
and Paradise
we recognize your story
by your breathless logic
taught by Dr. Chadwick
after linguistics in Latin class
surprised by the power
of the trajectory path
from the Georgics
in a descent of Orpheus
to rescue Eurydice
from the underground
before our cafe noon lunch
that still jogs my daily mind
having recognized your vision
to cohabit sounds
of the pastoral Ecologues
in the Roman poet's precision
for we learned of our Virgil
in his span and ability
as we earned the clever credibility
of logic from all the classics
that are often hidden away
in cold attics or library stacks
yet your planned mature words
are still alive to some of us
even if not read in the original
from old Roman Empire's dialogues
we still desire to read you,
contrary to our comic side
we will survive this century
of all dreaded literary quarrels
at our variety popular chorus
of stand-up or sit-ins,
Virgil is here for us
awakened in our varied culture
to his miracle history
and share the story
of the Aeneid
we light a candle to you
on your birthday cake
with a vigil fire over your head
festooned with earth-wise laurels
we applaud you with laughter
over a never-dead poet's society.


OCTOBER 20 (1854-1891)

An adolescent ever tongue-tied
spinning over the awe
of drawings, maps and words
shadowed by an encyclopedia
opens the windows of first light
overhears songbirds
by horse chestnuts
on wide-street trees
this October twentieth
imagining aqueducts by
rain shadows of mirrored hail
after sober sweet dreams
as he is being dressed by mother
Arthur beholds the lightning
and girded-up thunder
hoping for good fortune
now bent on his knees
by the Virgin Mary statuette
as he composes new honeyed lines
by his garden of Autumn leaves
along the Ardennes roads
now walking with his sister
who weekly takes him to church
for communion and to confess
yet he longs for the wondrous sea
to travel between the sky voice
and earth's remembrance
watching wings of lost sparrows
the boy seems suffocated
catching his breath
looking at pictures
of a sunny Seine River silhouette
by open boats moving
cargo ships in the dusk
all under the darkness
of the call of human exile
by smoke rising from candles
on his birthday cake
he imagines crossing over
somewhere out on the waters
under bestrewn tracked clouds
in a ports search of Casablanca
on a destiny's mission
with a full African moon
by a desert of Morocco
feeling down on his luck
in a long pleated shirt and dress
from a small houseboat
somewhere out on the waters
without love or aching caresses
until unexpected tears fall
upon a motionless face
traveling with whispers of grief
he sinks into itself in a daydream
of sweating disbelief
by his visiting seamstress
across his torso by the door
as seen by the painter Fantin-Latour
with a pitying care and relief
unlike the murmuring mistress
and lover Jeanne Duval
trying to wake up Baudelaire
under cover this Fall day
in the fair dawn
as drawn by Manet.


It is an October wind outside
of us near the Frog Pond
where children will soon skate
by elm branches towering above
a chorus of mourning doves
reminding us of the story
of the hiding in the shelter
in the tabernacles of Exodus
as Fall leaves have slowly turned
a miraculous orange, blond and red
near a market of pumpkins
in a resonant open shed,
as a camera guy glazed with film
takes you over to the Common
sensing cool air from the regatta
of a cruise race on the Charles
as a Harvard artist cannot wait
to embrace a bard's smile
and paint your portrait,
as we watch one swan
we named Leda move ahead
close to the mouth
of the forsythia river bed
near the bird feeder
a student reads out loud
by the Esplanade bandstand
his assignment of Levertov's
Breathing the Water
realizes that words matter,
the tall sun is a strong setting
for your birthday
people pause to hear you
on the crowded podium
as we read and play jazz
and sax riffs for peace
with an avalanche of voices
your presence rings out
remembering during the war days
children from the kindergarten
recall how during the Blitz
when a sparrow would fall
and land on the ground
you would rescue birds
in gentle acts
from their bereavement
over battle line shadows
scattering unknown moments
of eye-watered observations
planting yourself in transition
to make up to nature's exile
as your spirit still sounds
whether in London, Boston
unquenchable Seattle
or by the leafy underground
of Black Mountain peaks
full of little poet pockets
and letters from loving fans
tucked into your sweater
hearing that you are here
makes us all more alive
what matters, Denise Levertov
is that in your poet's name
this morning of your birth
seems to the lot of us
to make the earth a bit better.



Trains, transports
from Prague to Lodz
citizens from Berlin
cannot find
a place of peace
on the earth,
what greater sin
is to take away lives
along the Vtlava river
by the Old New Synagogue,
who could have imagined
such deeds against the Creator
than the history of murderers
in their victimized strife
now living as a remnant
out of dead dry bones
from shamed skin
as numbers on one arm
on days to atone
in chant of chants
toward God's writing
in the Torah
to give birth in shame
from talented names
lost to the sky birds
on a parole of souls
before the firing squads,
imagine an engraving of life
its memorial writing
cut with a knife into a stone
a body of words may rise
from explained editorials
before closed doors
from the lawyer and prosecutors
past all just words
in the higher and lower ranks
from crimes of blame
no one may forgive
history's timely lessons
for its innocent
grandsons and daughters
who visit the Shoah
carrying its human cargo
on its memory cards
or to lay flowers
on old unmarked cemetery graves
in the Prague snow and rain
as the absent poet Celan
is saved by his silence
again and again.


Covered by the mute sun's
high afternoon dust
hiking in a deft weary range
with a poet's October shiver
remembering the cool air
riddled with orange kites
on a high space
at a first frosty arctic wind
hearing tangled voices
on a branch of sparrows
singing a fine tune
entangled in small eternities
on a fresh airy peak
handing a red apple
to a thoughtful friend
and a wounded doctor
embedded in the last war
known for his debates
in sixth-grade English class
now on his once-soccer knees
by lifted-up songbirds
and a cicada chorus
almost covered by leaves
a lone robin wanders near us
with a tangled wounded wing
from an explosive truck wheel
saying a childhood prayer
we all begin to heal.


Today’s LittleNip:

Conversation may be compared to a lyre with seven chords—philosophy, art, poetry, love, scandal, and the weather.

—Anna Jameson


—Medusa, with thanks to today’s fine East Coasters: poet B.Z. Niditch and photographer Denise Flanagan!