Thursday, February 04, 2016

Talking Poetry in the Snow

Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen"
—Artwork by Elena Ringo
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


With a generous fur
of gentleness
yet apparently snug
my kitten murmurs to me
asking for a hug
here in a late-winter storm
as icicles stretch out
along the Coastal highway
near frozen riverbeds
of the hinterland
in the woods
daytime traffic abounds
as our eyes do a double stop
at the red signal
by hanging lanterns
of traveling by street lights
Athena purrs on the rug
in the front of the car
to keep blanket warm
along Crane's sandy beach
I'm taking off my mittens
and get out in the air
to jog along
an expanse of waves
not worrying
how Athena behaves
near snowy Elms
watching two songbirds
along the barrier waves
of a blue Atlantic pier
sing out in the clearing
as it starts to rain
in the January air.



We talked poetry
for hours in late January
finishing each other’s
sentences on the banks
over the Charles River
the car mirror showed
huge chunks of ice jam
locked over the waterfront
in a thankful sunshine thaw
by the Longfellow Bridge
footsteps of a bird walks
under a high cloudy ladder
of a no-parking sign
grey shadows dance over us
you draw my profile
over my last poetry collection
your hair sweeps in the wind
watching a turtle through
the Cambridge red leaves
you want to visit Mt. Auburn
insisting to visit Robert Creeley
at his last resting place
you need a handkerchief
as my lights go out.


Meeting Burt and Chas
at Menlo Park
we silently greet to jam
for a brief time of jazz
in this detached place
scratched in my time
with so many memories
moves in the dark
as a fair breeze welcomes us
crowds fill along flagstones
near trees of a shadowy Bay
beneath a sudden downpour
showering on the highway,
as my itinerant poetry
conquers all thoughts
and asks my friends
to remove our small masks
on this free holiday break
as my words pass me by
and we ask why
we all feel lighter this Fall
in our cranberry sweatshirts
sliding over the grass
of Whitman's blade,
we eat spinach croissants
or brie cheese sandwiches
as if we are mendicants
beggars or troubadours
trading in our baguettes
pouring jet shots of whiskey
in green herbal Chinese tea
brought by an attendant
out of doors
on a tall food truck
who himself is barely awake
to serve our condiments,
as the sun welcomes
my talented friends
reaching out into the clover
with our continental luck
wishing for a verbal roust
about our musical lore
as when we had a teen band
called D'amour,
we remember that time
when leaving our home
in late adolescence
to view Leonardo's art at Rome
or with Michelangelo
in his Passion paintings to atone,
going on to exotic Paris
to try out for the French theater
with stoned understudy actors
where we are cast
in embarrassed minor parts,
remembering in D.C.'s gallery
Woman with Parasol
or Manet in his Steamboat
Leaving Bologne

we heard lectures on Cézanne
covered on the museum floor,
we talked about fine arts
and my one-act plays
my friends as four stars
meeting up with
our San Diego friend Mathias
running away from home
with whom we easily
bonded at the get-go,
and spoke of soccer and sports
those reflections and reactions
of wanting to dine at the Grill
at the late opening
of St. Dennis' doors
with shared past photos
of us to last on the tennis courts,
remembering our lasting thrill
at our sophomoric parts
in all our Sixties happenings,
and when we were cast
as freshman into Tamburlaine 
Christopher Marlowe's play,
here as the Bay's coastal rain
trails us on the ground
we speak of the secret wounds
on those lonely sea ventures
as lost sailors sound us out
we sense the hound of heaven
sailing on a parade of floats
from the West Coast
when we were shouting about
a plea to end all wars
which still engulfs all our hurts
yet willing to get in and out
from a continent of ports
where everyone boasts on boats
when we found out love hurts
in our blue Navy shirts
yet we have our friends’ support,
trembling as glasses chime
and toast each other
for an assurance to be together
once more as a vanguard of brothers
when rays of the sun fall
we play the music in our time
vowing in our guarded memory
always to be temperamental friends
in a critically effaced feature
whatever life sends our solo way,
as our long day recommends
this memoir of that day
at Menlo Park ends.



With an excited voice
Dave, one of my directors
who is also a painter,
is about to speak
and do a shout-out
for the Original Theater
with one of his rave posters
he’s here about
to advertise my plays
for the coming week,
with all the fierce tension
of an adolescent wise-guy
he will always leak
his slight smile
and flies like Superman
by the stage hallway
to hand out fliers
on the classy aisle
with bright detachment
of his simile's language
he opines to know by heart
all the thespian parts,
and mainly corrects
the actors if they forget
their selected lines
yet does not target anyone
with a companion of arrows
or tease anyone with his darts,
now(on the q.t.)the French critic
has told Dave quietly tonight
he believes
and reveals that bz and Beckett
have quite a connection too
as they both know how
to be arbitrary
and gore the ox on occasion
or be literary-sly as a fox;
the critic on this occasion
is bearded with great insight
seated in a special box
for tonight's performance
who has just returned from Paris,
for this special occasion
Dave hangs onto
one of the first aisle seats
as the first act is about to begin
and speaks to him,
when hidden jazz music beats
are heard from backstage
for the waiting audience
with introductory remarks
from the critic's kindly
discerned word,
as stage lights break to dim
with so many sparks of ennui
flamed in marked applause
but not to embarrass him
or any of the aged company
but to burn like a Godot image
again and again,
the critic somehow knows
"that B.Z. has a close connection
to Samuel Beckett,"
yet his learned remark
with subjective introspection
has remained with me
in a sonority of skillful years
by his tongue's persuasion
through many tall barriers
of young bold sobriety
and older poverty
resonant in a writer's residence
throughout the highways
of our far country,
finding equality and humanity
in those theatrical inspections
and responses
disclosing the skill of my stars
when integrity sponsors
my love, will and mind
and informs me
of many fearfully aligned
or subtle aspects of nuance
we can discover by chance
from a play's second inspection
in recovery of another
new clever scene or set
bz will not turn away
nor will he ever forget the critic's
just sentiments of my debt
to Beckett
even when heavy curtains
must fall
I will open the sunny blinds
to witness an opening
that shines a thrill on all.

(birthday January 27)

If all the notes
over your miniature statue
here at the grand piano
were to play here,
or we were to review
all of your sonatas
or to share your music dramas
concertos or cantatas,
or I were to follow
all the Masonic chords
offering a choral song
by myself on the organ
I'd give you a span
of all the music awards
from our public library
with any critic's wealth
beyond any augmented hour,
or if my diminished words
could hum and deliver along
at your distinguished powers
there would be saved
one day-long Requiem sound
with red-and-white flowers
on a divine grave ground
in the sunshine
of a brave Mozart
by the Rhine riverbed.

(birthday February 8)

A parting day
as you leave Cambridge
for the enlarged thrill
of travel to Brazil
we will always remember
your imparting to us
a sunlight's ray
by large snow drifts
as another semester passes
and in knowing laughter
as you return to your classes
we wait at a celebration
for the new Elizabethan energy
that loyally loves poetry
as did Sir Walter Raleigh
alerted by free verse
from those wisdom of phrases
of those who travel
to far countries of the universe
pouring out as ethereal images
of your royal poetry's perception
out of your lips and mouth
at the luncheon reception
we feeling a bit disconcerted
after the mourning doves
have also deserted us to go South.



At Amherst
the leaves are scattered
in the shadows of snow
as my car seems cursed
and is unable to travel far
yet on the go
he chooses to visit you
my sister,
it probably
doesn't matter
with all your
fair-weather fans scattered
in a world-wide tower
of Babel
where life never ends
with honorable friends
who offer you flowers
at a reasonable hour
at every season,
not willing to delay
or suspend a speculator's visit
to a greater poet any longer
we are your winter friends
no strangers in offering
to Em all their amends.


You know why
we are both here
standing in the same line
wanting the same latte
as your lips tremble
in the shadowy corner
of the bright coffee café
with a last cheese croissant
on the chess table
this ruddy February
at 8 o'clock in the morning
the sun coming through
landing on a Picasso print
near the warming kitchen
a woman in a beaver fur
is asking me to help her
on the double
after seeing my car trouble
by barely clearing myself
out with a shovel
I'm offering to pull her out
of the bicycle lane
with her yellow French car door
caught in the grass thickets
of the fallen evergreen
next to a fellow bachelor
who is lost as if a dream
in a weekend snow's ravine,
a few boys are daring to throw
snowballs our way
I'm wanting
to strain my neck
at the white windows
to see two eagles
by upper-deck shadows
with a nest of a bedded secret
at a future day,
we're taking in the mountain air
up here in Vermont
to cross-country ski
bright and early
at first light
on the fairly snowy slopes
feeling as an exile
on the high ledges
smiling with a hope
with the weight of a gesture
that my identity be renewed,
I'm reciting a Valéry poem
in the recesses of my being
at nature's itinerant soul
whom he expects to empower
over February's first light
reviewed with a poet's business
as he reveals a happening
of blessing us with his insight
with an open country feeling.


Today’s LittleNip:

Forever is composed of nows.

—Emily Dickinson


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s poetry par excellence, interweaving many references to snow as he did, inspiring me to find some appropriate (though anonymous) photos.

A couple of local notes:

•••Frank Dixon Graham’s workshop on international poetry forms begins tonight (Thurs. 2/4), 7pm, at Clunie Community Center. More info about it in the green box at the right of this column (under the Brain).

•••It’s Poetry Out Loud time again, and counties around the country are selecting winning high school youngsters for their poetry recitation talent. The El Dorado County competition (sponsored by the El Dorado Arts Council) will be held next Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the Imagination Theater, El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Dr., Placerville. There was an article in the Mountain Democrat saying that they need judges and other volunteers—and certainly our Medusa readers are qualified to judge teenagers reciting poetry! Info: 530-295-3496. Those eight winners will go on to the State Finals in Sacramento Feb. 28-29, and those winners will go to Washington D.C. this summer.  For more about the national POL organization, see


 Magic Cat