Thursday, April 07, 2016

In the Jardinère: Dreaming in Cubism

Two Figures, 1913-14
—Painting by Liubov Popova
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


When my stay-at-home neighbor
puts on the all-news station
on his all-day cable T.V.
with all that information
and argumentative leads
it overwhelms me from my years
of labor for language's beauty
that enables me refuse to heed
all these rages of commentary
from camera stars and seers
of engaged mass communication
in a twenty-four-hour station feed
posted continually in our ears
with pictures of so much suffering
that grow our many earthly fears
of war, violence, piracy and crime
in its dishy discursive public duty
yet not wishing to waste my time
rather to observe only silence
secretly sneaking into my library
to play alto or smooth jazz
in my sound-proof studio
to atone for my failings
or read new digital verse
by my railings on the stairs
without a mobile phone
on my back bookshelf
filled with past collections
yet to desire some privacy
from a constant self-quarrel
of my own arbitrary rants
taking a look at my selections
always critical of my own poetry
from the context of a secret pardon
within God's own heavenly society
as the painted religious figures
in sculpture and painted culture
of Chagall and Teresa of Avila
by my wooden carpentry bench
with my miniature portrait of saints
along my telescope to the moon
filled with a memory of stars
or play a hymn or French tune
based on Clair de Lune
by brushing up on my guitars
near my earthly garden cellar
hoping to rest on my laurels
at an obelisk universe in a shed
or being a guest of Edgar Allen Poe
with his grotesque masks
putting up my feet on my desk
along my own stone pillar bed.

 Bibemus Quarry, 1895
—Painting by Paul Cézanne


Byron picks up a pen
and critics say
he is like the madmen
with ten-fold oracles
of the Romans or Greeks
when he begins to dare
and challenge language
from the knowledge
of Whitman, Dickinson
Plath, Lowell or John Clare
whose verse retells
and reaches out to teach
each generation of our children
to beware of entering
in the tents of a poet's station
while they pursue wisdom
as seers on a variant path
contented by human virtue
is their own valiant singing
for the freedom of their nation
and those like Byron
are truly universal
those few daringly born
convinced that their souls
are bringing all them closer
for a miracle of a universal soul
amid the hours of a new creation
for a peek at the finishing line
from a veiled goal and laurel
captures the sudden divine
away from the choice
of sword, scalpel and strife
and in a word above all quarrels
in palpable mirth, harmony, and love
like Sarah, Esther and Mary
who chose the raptures of life
there is no limit to ring
a bell, sound a drum
or play timpani, flute or fife
yet to sing the vibrato of a chorus
of some heavenly birds above us
assuming an alto or soprano voice
without regret to fulfill a choice
of posturing to be anonymous
and agree to an angelic symphony
consuming as a bold composer
or a kick-start jazz musician
or a virtuous philosopher
to empower us in a miracle
as anointed oil pours out
yet who liberally moves from
the prism of hard clay
of his bard's mortal coil
from an ancient potter's dream
of a taut stone wheel
for Byron was a keen listener
yet caught at the city of Ur
on highways and islets
at a finishing line for freedom
emboldened in Mesopotamia
the poet sinks into a hungry sleep
and puts up his feet
as Keats in his "Lamia"
by a tree aviary with honey bees
wakes in daydreams of diadems
in bejeweled crowns
worn for his marathon verse
wishing to be a revolutionary
for Byron is for the Grecian cause
sounding as if in training not a culprit
or a warring criminal or accuser
but as a lover of humanity
by just writing
underground notes in his diary
now he imagines going toward
the country's scaffold prison
when his politics of freedom
going forward to universal suffrage
will someday arise from Styx,
and Greece like Jason's fleece
will be released as a bas-relief
in an artful secret verse's billfold,
for Byron's heavy instilling anguish
is coldly maimed in a traffic of grief
his business in life
will be enrolling him
with a cleverly rewarded love
and justice consoling the nations
will shine above on a newly coined
name given forever as "Byronism"
gladly consoling us in declaration
as a thrilling new April leaf
appears in a spring jardinière
and yet some people still laugh
by joining the crowd to dismiss us
in our earthly metamorphosis
wishing we were only after
what is divine madness
in a still life of disbelief.

 Mandolin and Guitar, Summer, 1924
—Painting by Pablo Picasso


The wind whiplashes the shore
laughs and swirls along the sea
its waves by the home harbor
as a minstrel bard saves
the newly grown saplings
hiding near arbors
of the trees in a back yard
of a Church
as Sunday bells spring out
the poet plays his Catalan guitar
his black eyes like stars vanish
twinkling at the people
leaving the Square huge chapel
by the tall Spanish steeple
where he sings the verses
of Juan de la Cruz
a mother-wife leaves town
with her young children
with an overcoat of seasonal signs
in loose winter-worn woolens
and after midnight mittens
the guitarist rushes past
many bitter citizens’ lives
lined up at the city gates
to let a stranger in
by the obscure rafts
he makes his paths
without passport or identity
on the cultivated soil
from Spain and Italy
over the high waves of the main
yet asks for no bread
though he is hungry
with no cash purchase
unlike a beggar
he does not complain
without ripe fruit or libation of wine
as the poet pours anointed oil
on his own head and beard
yet only on a scintilla’s wind
hears him playing more guitar notes
covering the prison bars he feared.

 Still Life with a Cake, 1924
—Painting by Pablo Picasso


Drawn lines
of arbitrary proof
in the loveless gigs
of the furtive Fifties
changes for us
in a chorus of fiery voices
every midnight at midnight
opens its red-light roofs
in a swinging dawn
of the Sixties
to sing in a new light
from shadows of cool jazz
as the hours of guest beats
with lively black eyes
play their soprano saxes
mixed with the phosphorescent
new tuft of stars dancing
at sunrise at the High Hat
and transfixes the fulfilling
the sister and brother
of a flower child's knees and feet
as we relaxed and took photos
recreated from angel faces
pulsing from a stained book
of musical snowy veins
crying out for peace and justice
from red serpentine disgraces
and any icy bigoted remains.

 Still Life with Violin and Glass, 1915
—Painting by Juan Gris


When life became
too much of a concern
in a metaphysical way
on this your birthday
you picked up a beautiful bouquet
filled with a metamorphosis
of power for a changed season
arranged on a thin bed of red roses
which you water in a cup
for no strange reason
in the shade of a lily jardinière
by a curled garden of flowers
with its own mirrored poses
supplanted in the corridor's shade
where the poet asks
the Lord to pardon him
with His suture's cutting blade
of his personal struggle with sin
as he prayed each day
reaching out at every church visit
asking for miracle victory to win
yearning for His glory crown
as the story of a wounded prodigal
returns to his loving Father
touches his hurting spirit up and down
and masks a heavenly iron defense
against those forces aggrieved by Him
not just to forget this moment
of torment he asks for His peace
yet George feels too unworthy
to be critically believed
for a miracle of bliss
even at a future repose of his soul
yet he discloses to us in his verse
which is to make heaven
his worthy poetic goal
composed from foreshadowed time
he learns that his tearful proposal
will increase the goal of patience
sitting for hours in the church pew
at a portal of an English cathedral
of penitence and repentance
to review an Easter search
in his communal subject
of his mortal sins
by composing a theme
as a scribe gazes
on His hurting wounded sides
from his ultimate hymn to Him
as if he were in Christ's bridal nest
not wishing to delay
the inscribed object by words of love
yet he had learned the divine power
of being tested on His rest day
by listening to the choir
hearing the organist play
he had been inspired
though Herbert had not seen
doves or birds
at Tuesday Shrovetide
having pancakes or sherbet
in the alcove of his cathedral
yet he knew God desires
to reward every hour
in those secret times and places
not to be forgetful to learn
of the wondrous Holy ghost
with the most love of his graces
where blue fair heaven decides
to greet, describe and dream
upon a canopy of earth
for a poet's bridal of words
amid his hidden mood swings
after he visits the lake
at an early portal across the Bay
during a new early spring
coming to celebrate Pentecost
by gentle saplings of vines
in a call of awakened birds.

Violin and Jug, 1910
—Painting by Georges Braque


Tips of fingers in history
from narratives of twisted
moves on the dance floor
as the suspended mirror slips
in a backdrop of a landscape
mesmerized in a looking glass
discovered by the old masters
where reality shapes the commands
of a charming Moorish poet
to be recognized in a film noir
by car racing in a navy beret
he bootstraps a combed marathon
with a spectrum of encircled colors
wanting a canvas exposure
disarming us
bathing in pale abstractions
of a culture in blue prints
from painted verticals
and vocals of echoes
posted in the daylight
from curtained drapes vanishing
in a museum's surreal tremor
dusted by a full throat of memory
as a sudden defensive paintbrush
shapes us in geometric revelations
as deeper resonant new forms
now scrawled out in graffiti
of a bulldozed provocation
shading us in from a creative map
of another loft on gas lit walls
among the peaks, cliffs, mounds
of commanding escapes on the Alps
in a boulder sky of floating chips
of a rocky finishing displacement
in a series of visits
from a pale Swiss somnambulist
and visionary Alberto Giacometti
wrapped around concentric verse
shaped by abstract drawings
of invented scattered intensity
from an expressive focus
outside underhanded ice blocks
in a proclaimed artistic pantheon
at chalky perspectives in a revealed
threshold from a soundproof
progenitor of an aging solitude.

 Violin and Grapes, 1912
—Painting by Pablo Picasso

Today’s LittleNip:

Bill Moyers: "Who interprets the divinity inherent in nature for us today? Who are our shamans?"
Joseph Campbell: "It is the function of the artist to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today.…."
Moyers: "So shamans functioned in earlier societies as artists do now. They play a much more important role than simply being..."
Campbell: "They played the role the priesthood traditionally plays in our society."

—Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: TV interview of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers, 2013. See’s-adventure-audio


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his fine poems today! Hear B.Z. read one of his poems on “Randomly Read Poems” from Pinhead Press at

Hey! Think you know your cubism? Take the cubism quiz at

Lots of poetry going on in Davis tonight and tomorrow, including Poetry in Davis tonight, featuring Alan Williamson, Paul Breslin and Jean Foster, and a very interesting book release tomorrow at the Avid Reader in Davis for Davis Poet Laureate Dr. Andy Jones and his book of poetry about the difficulties of returning home from war (see Scroll down to the blue box at the right (under the green box) for all the details of these and other area readings.