Thursday, February 11, 2016

Only Poetry and Prayer

Anna Akhmatova
—Portrait by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


Past a discerning memory
of Anna Akhmatova
reading her poetry notes
with dim eyes over
the warm stove
and curved mirror
turning a white headband
on a courageous life
we witness to your laurels
as you press in your quotes
from your astonishing passages
on a lost lover and husband
with a warm quarrel of regrets
at the turn of a century
at lucid secrets emerging
at the miracle spin of her survival
calling out all of Stalin's criminals
as trembling whispers
of passing voices rival
in her paucity of letters
she does not yet send by mail,
for Akhmatova's nature expands
reaching us after death exhales
in knowing our time better
when on a winter pilgrimage
to greet Osip Mandelstam,
an exiled friend,
camped out with luggage
along the dark Russian river
who sailed away in exile
who shares another language,
in a passing visit over kvas
and a sparkling glass
of herbal mint tea,
it is snowing for the poets
with the snowy wind covering
her brown coat and bandana
by a smile then laughter
at the mouth of the cold Neva
everyone is awaiting saplings
planted under a bridge's beach
near fathomless shadowy
reaching branches of a knout
and blackened whip
when birch twigs will bend
in a coming deliverance
from the long fathomless thaw
for a Russian wintry penance
as children shout their warring
yet loving confessions of love
in a thousand wonders
of an Easter nascent rain
as you hear the priest's language
in purple procession and song
everyone wondering
at the spring's arrival
as this everlasting poet
covers over her tense glances
and she reaches out on the sand
to us in benevolence
from an age without end.

 Self-Portrait, John Ruskin

(February 8, 1819)

Aware he is
a minor prophet
of art for art's sake
in a poet's lore and literature
dipping in his watercolors
over the aura he wakes up
for an Italian cup of coffee
and his painted murals,
with maps of geography at home
over London and Rome
tapping into the wit and culture
resting by his catalogs
of floral and fauna
at his Victorian age
with fine architecture
at the structure of wide lines
in his travel guide to Italy
with his Stones of Venice,
Ruskin adored all birds,
just turn the plumage page
of his brilliant words on plants
yet he was no sycophant
as an expert in ornithology
he even contributed
his sectarian share
with lectures on theology,
instead as a back-bench patron
connected with art and society
with his analysis of landscape
on a canvas of honorable basis
of Mr. Turner and Constable
with his beautiful variety of lines
in Sesame and Lilies
always on my aunt's table
with croissants and green tea
and a French Bordeaux wine.

 Lawrence Durrell

(born February 27, 1912)

Petunia is all masked
for the evening ball
rushing from the library
to her Junior prom
dressed in a pink taffeta
puts on pearl earrings
and high heels in a moment
which she fixes
over a beige picket fence
whispers as a coincidence
of a quick sidewalk push
Petunia suddenly reveals
to tell me
she has a life-long
literary crush
upon Lawrence Durrell
with his travel journals,
asked me what I think
of his aesthetic sense,
telling her I was not yet familiar
with his exemplary
but probably minor poet,
yet later secretly learn
of this diplomatically
serviced and wisely
dramatically wrought writer
who was immediately
spotted by his English critics
for his literary character studies
yet arbitrarily asking myself
what his poetic life taught
for him to crave in literature
more cultural advance,
Petunia laughed out loud
at my evasive journalist answers
about love, jealousy and romance
in this petulant chance encounter
at this one forgotten event
on the curb
with a nervous question
to her in the sunset
if she could accompany me
to the dance
as a pageant tour
of high school movers,
and tournament of cheerleaders
waves to us in a limousine,
later in a quest of a Eurasian life
I will welcome Durrell's diet
of travel and diary
as this continual night-owl friend
climbed with me on divine heights
over explicit sex scenes
howling at the hectoring lovers
under his laurel covers
of The Alexandria Quartet,
that desire all the company
at the Copts Society set
with their family quarrels
out of Cairo with Egyptians
attired at his text,
by uncovering a manic betrayal
in the pride of complex novels
by which students freely
make out his dramatic destiny
out of an episodic history
as of sexting fragrant dreams
when he was a guilty libertine
brilliantly enlightening Justine
Lawrence Durrell still riding
over the Ionian sea
wondering of Jason's fleece
and onto the classic language
of his discovered Hellenic revival
as he sails on
as an Athenian to Greece.


When musicals played
invading a new luminosity
for me in adolescence
in a consenting language
on grandfather's Victrola
this talking machine
embracing shadows
of an engaged melody
at his own poor dream
in making a living
delayed from his final hours
of a forty-day rehearsal
we made our lyrical notes
interwoven in a duet
on the open piano
as we were in a recital
as he heard me play
a sonata of Beethoven
then he recited my poem
the words of a secret prelude
in English and German
within the key of G minor
in a quartet dedicated to him.


A bard at a coffee house
always at his artistic best
picks up his packet
of avant-garde postcards
quickly counting nine
you may regard this Beat poet
with knowing affection
in San Francisco at City Lights
his sounding direction
riding on a motorcycle
over his invading grounds
as he is spot-on deciding to buy
the most clever of lyrics
over these poetic Valentines
along a bookstore wall
on this February Twelfth night
as he puts his literary signature
brightly red on the dotted line
and shares a valentine with guests
from West Los Angeles
who are about to visit him
at his backyard retreat
who read his prose
from his folio of keen quotes,
as he puts his feet up
over the desk
with newly discovered
yet not secretive love notes,
spilling and drawn out
in an artistic form fulfilling
his ideas on a colorful obelisk
that are beautifully designed
in starry skilled structure covers
as he slowly recovers
from his latest nature's outburst
at his last heavy metal storm,
here with shortness of breath
under a burlesque black book
from the Sixties pictures he took
of his art critic friend Elizabeth
that he seems almost reformed
waiting for the open theater's
comic humoresque to perform,
not wanting to throw a tantrum
keeping all St. Sebastian arrows
adjusted in his quiver
he discovers his own grave past
in the lines he must deliver
tonight playing
a dreamy young vital upstart
who waits for love
of an expressive tomorrow
resembling the grave Malvolio
reacting a bit grotesque
in a poetic text of Twelfth Night
as he casts his bright narrative
like a robotic blue fish
with a live line on a sinking hook
restoring up inky metaphors
by his outlook of good wishes
that make his history stand out
at rehearsing an artful solo part
by handsomely staring
into a double mirror
convex and concave
with all his troubles to behave,
and looks fairly misunderstood
remembering his first rendition
of doing Romeo and Juliet,
or at his first reading
at a starlet's picture edition
over daring movie sets
with charismatic vital actors
always bursting out dramatically
in temperamental condition
shouting about past regrets
cursing themselves for being
once of a good nature,
with the worst of pretenders
to engender their stand-up lines
and innovate for
their own personal nomenclature
so super-sensitive
and berated it seems
by any sex and gender,
among cultured and cultivated
the poet shilling the text
given out to drama queens
in those receptive lines
from his artsy picture book
as he listens and quietly divines,
weighing in on a '78 recording
of a soul on the basement floor
quietly reading Rimbaud
Baudelaire and Verlaine
by the casement window
near the stage door,
here the poet tries
in his masked shadowy word
to write free verse
about a wreck asking for love
as suddenly he runs
outside the studio
under a hammock of rain,
as twigs fall off the woody Elms
from the heavy breeze
at the last storm remembering
his past feat at a quatrain
when a flock of blue birds
from Capistrano
rested above the branches
at the back yard shed
near crabapple trees
feasting at bread in the nest,
explaining the moment
his eyes shut out the light
which would glow
on the soft elephant lamp
he built with his own hands
after the last ride in a night cab
when he paid the tab
from a lottery's advance
as a gift of chance
from the mayor's charity,
he goes off to the loft's bed
with only poetry and prayer
returning as his sole guest
from the masked ball dance
remembers the correct answer
about the poet
Giacomo Leopardi
on a snowy T.V.'s Jeopardy
then does a crossword puzzle
in the latest Chronicle,
not laughing about years ago
about the libelous article
on the lie of Mr. Bell
that daily city sports reporter
was revealed against him
before he was fired
that caused us so much unrest
the one in his Bermuda shorts
who is now retired
was hidden by unlocking
his Harvard clock by watching
unlawfully wrong statistics
so his kindred nephew
Rocky Arvid easily won
at our risky marathon run
when all we wished
was to court some wild fun
now it's water under the bridge,
the bard refills his forty years
in a cup of black coffee
with a warm memory
of many a Valentine
there in a fine wooden box
of black-and-white photos
in a studio backdrop
of Rudolph Valentino
kept at the back of a child Bible
that he once memorized
before he was riled up
at his first audition
on the hollow stairs
near Hollywood and Vine
letting the dim lights glow
on the unsettling words,
"Let you be mine."

 Mardi Gras Masque

Today’s LittleNip:

The heaviest impact of the work of art is in the guts. Art does not reason. It manhandles you and changes you…

—Lawrence Durrell


—Medusa, with many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today's fine poetry!

 Massachusetts Bald Eagle