Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oranges in the Desert

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


We met in August
as it were yesterday
when I reviewed
movie scripts
for a summer job
then danced away
at a Fifties mixer
from the cotillion
my aunt made me attend
and now I compose
an elegy and epitaph
to our anniversary
remembering where we hid
behind closed doors
at the Algerian
pavilion plaza
when you
and Uncle Sonny
worked on a movie script
and we telegraphed
each other
for years as you settled
in West Hollywood
working with
my Uncle Sonny
as publicity director
for a big studio
you who really
understood me
as we sat on
a box of oranges
in the desert.

 Paddle 8, Frank O'Hara, 2009
—Portrait by Alex Katz


An era
swimming in love
with Frank O'Hara
his fixed smile
transfixed as a guide
close to the earthy verse
by lifting a beer
at the Cedar Bar
keeping up with
your "lunch poems"
intact and we arrive
as the smell of a shower
of rained-
out circumstance
at the five-star
training gym
with dressing down
in sheets finding as you out
with a circus clown
in town on the elevator
your bodywork
of laundering
with your
one-night stand
as Alex Katz
paints your nexus
facing the city
with an accent
by an unlit street
at midnight's
soundproof jazz
near love traffic
by Central Park
asking us two
to play piano
for two hands
by Mozart
in bare feet
at the faulty window
where pigeons
reside forever
near the open door
when taxi cabs await you
others flag down a limo
for those uptown
knowing you’re
showing up late
running in the taut breeze
perspiring in a sweater
from a colorful portrait
and missing love letter.

 Two Deck Chairs
—Painting by David Hockney, 1988


What you do
after you swim
out of breath
in your half-open mouth
who captures a wave
before a sprightly
grin and tonic
from my laughter sides
enjoying your excursions
toward art's communication
in the pool or ocean
when competition
runs deep
but there is only
one Hockney
from the West Coast
pressured by
your declaration
and art's invitation
at the movie set
in the ’80's
unaware to look up
at my poster to host
itinerant artists
for a bed and breakfast
who were here
to visit a poet
at my kitchen table
by your portrait
and signed print
called Two Deck Chairs.

Bottles and Fishes, 1910-12
—Painting by George Braque 


Not allowing any space
of impulses
to divide my time
in competition with Picasso
our surrealism will be made
from our several painted wounds
we share in common
in an uneasy studio
as Apollinaire visits us
extends his friendship's hand
a still life is reality
transforming sadness
into fulcrums of creation.



Language invades
your sensibility
parting yourself in art
at innocent glances
of framed nuances
to disengage your life
from an emancipated time
to take a chance at your age
and engage in a balancing act
of passages of rare emotions
as nature's way
of transfiguration
inside an analysis
of your Platonic soul
from a maturation
of dramatic reveries
in days of contradictions
revives us to recollect our past
is to make a history
of your soul
in annual pilgrimages
by prominent goals
with a metamorphosis
in an ease of dreams
your elegies seasoned
with body shadows
forming monologues
of memories
based on reason
in the life of Socrates
or in your "Notes
Toward a Supreme Fiction"
written on August dog days
your diction is dominant
in your harmonium to please,
after a brief swim
of enchantment
in a heated
somnolent nakedness
wading in
at the swimming pool
enfolding a waiting
invitation's engagement
of bubbles rising
in a nimbus of words
which welcomes
your poetry of surprise
from a gesture
of former images
you sent out
by composing exquisite letters
and maxims on your patio
now at the kitchen table filled
with pistachio sherbet
you listen to classical music
unleashed on the piano
by a Mozart and Schubert trio
by guests who arrive
requested to entertain
by your perplexed continuum
who are transfixed
by your palace of a pool,
yet Wallace you are alone
playing solitaire
keeping furtive secrets
as Baudelaire entangles
your double-dream vision
and children out of school
thrill to mingle
on the sandy playground
you listen to shadowy birds
with sounds flying over
the tree shade
and a friend does a self-portrait
of a much younger Stevens
when you were a climber
doing an exercise
of a bard's body bends
on the tennis court
or composing a morning
aubade looking at the fence
in a quintet
of avant-garde poems
in your world without ends
or regret.

 Wallace Stevens
—Portrait by D.B. Johnson


You smile
as a Jew in a fedora
but without having
the Torah in exile
staring at your portraits
of poets Creeley
and Duncan
as you paint a fascist cell
in Warsaw
or a Russian woman
in the Gulag
you make
our century real
in the flames
of our history
someday an angel
in Revelation
will accept
an invitation
extended from
the Isle of Patmos
to open the Lamb's book
of life in seals
from the great I AM,
he will reveal
that the Word
is hid in our heart
only to be exposed
as revolutionary poetry
as in Blake's divine art.

 For Love (Robert Creeley)
—Portrait by R.B. Kitaj, 1966-70


His lectures inspired
like his art of attentiveness
that culture's history
will answer us back
to our memory
of Fascism
with an abstraction
to give truth
in a prism
of satisfaction
in his Polish Village series
tells us in a thousand
scenes of glass
where Auschwitz
has a space for what
memory has forever passed.

 Pilica I, 1973
—Painting from Frank Stella Polish Village Series


The illuminating
in your photographed
symmetry of description
of the Green Mountains
over a trek
of landscaped lakes
at a annunciation's retreat
from stills transported
in locution's pictures
from indifferent
vacation sites
with silence of
your moving nights
at a timeless
travelogue of vocation
transports words
of originality
at Platonic monologues
into a vocation
of hallucination
from posters
wanted on Elm
to locate
a lost golden retriever
of seasonal
at a weekend
barn dance
as homecomings
of birds
remake your images
in a symmetry
of poetic form
or about
St. Augustine's epigraphs
from a
charity of senses
into a narrative
of humanity
from nature in “Departures”
as you write
upon Mexican scenes
of a siesta's hour
from a
visionary insinuation
of compensatory objectives
as robins and orioles fly
toward the third heaven
up from your new-
found visualization
in several
shifting flower pictures
we receive
your recognition
with love
for what
is an expansion
in language's
cultural invitation
from querulous
yet marvelous lines
asking space
and time shifts
into subliminal
added associations
with translucent
of clarity's tenses
of Ben Belitt's

 Old Bennington (Click to Enlarge)


Receiving an invitation
to view Interior with
Dress Pattern
in a gallery
of upper Manhattan
feeling flattered
in this penthouse loft
was life downhill
from here
among the jet set
with the blues
of memory
as the day
with a voice raised me
up from Boston's backwaters
of obscurity
yet with a security
of feeling
standing apart
from the crowd
a Bach violin sonata
feeling like a proud jester
of entertainment
with a Bojangles angle
as angels prepare
for my debut
at fourteen
without any directions
but to be cool
as Mailer takes me
up to the roof
after I told him my fear
of heights
this August
midnight hour
and asks me
to look down
at the traffic
and to fight fear
he said with a bear hug
and a Bronx cheer.

 Interior with Dress Pattern
—Painting by Fairfield Porter


This autumn you would be
one hundred years young
of waiting to celebrate
your September birthday
in a Beacon Hill dorm
if you are able to make it
through your mental storm
wondering if anyone
will remember you
as the first
confessional poet
with the words of form;
now that you are translated
your spirit still calls
out to us
in the warm hallways
when a poet
like Elizabeth Bishop
would visit
who could alter your mood
more than any medicine
or confession of sin
to make you feel free
facing up to your loss
with her cross-reference
as a Sapphic
wordsmith of poetry
in a landscape boundary
as a bailiwick
of nature
reaching your
mature mind
shaping words
of the centuries
from a soliloquy
resolution's activity
in her own skills
at colloquy
taking after Wordsworth
as the Romantics will
by adjusting eidetic memory
speaking of your loan of grief
who alone understood you
when she subtly returned
your belief into tell us
a good report of her lover
that made you jealous,
of her recent visit
to Nova Scotia and Brazil
you discussed bas reliefs
and petunia paintings
of Georgia O'Keeffe,
as guys still play soccer
or ice hockey
here along
the Widener library wall
nearby the fireplace,
Lowell still sits with his pipe
(we still witness your face)
making us thrilled
to be warmed
by your ripe verse
at the August rain
and sustained
by disarmed grace
in Robert's innovation
of history's charmed trace
of epigrammatic individuality
that will
not conform or swipe
at art in a hurting gesture
of dramatic intimacy
with a grotesque
critic's stripe
from the abyss
of his epiphanies
from a narrative's
in an innovation
of a new age
of hip and hype
surviving from past words
and his third wife's last kiss.

 Albert Ginsberg Portrait by
Fabrizio Cassetta


You stood up to
all the verbs,
you would not adjust
to Passover's bitter herbs
or Easter's story of hope
you preferred
cruising along
in the face of it
as a poet of "Howl"
gets high on dope
saying on
Merv Griffin's show
there is nothing wrong
with a thirst for a bong
from Queens, NY
sweat lodge
with a towel
over your head
when at
my first urban read
with a rugby star
next to a bed
I felt strange
lips pecking
at the nape
of my neck
like a wise
wizened owl
but not wanting
any vatic fuss
or to hear
any dramatic song
from your sitar
on our laps
at the edge
of Indian summer
with an August
insomnia's collapse
pretending we were
in Roman gladiator
or pagan times
hearing the impending taps
at the door to an apocalypse,
there is no crime, Allen
for affectionate love,
only your poor mother
did not get the Hitler-Stalin
crime’s connection
in a Devil's pact
in fact,
she was still smarting
from the direction
of pogroms
in Russia,
Hungary or Romania
where Fascism
was aiming
its crossing arrows at us
as Bob Dylan sings to us
in a post-war chorus
"The times were


Today’s LittleNip:

Poetry is an act of peace.

—Pablo Neruda


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

For more D.B. Johnson portraits of writers, go to

For Susan Wheeler’s tribute to poet Ben Belitt, see By the way, do you ever check out Lots of fine material there.

 Celebrate poetry today by going to Words Dance Publishing 
( for a variety of interesting, well laid-out 
features with lots of audio, plus a submission opportunity. 
(I think they’re still publishing, since I couldn’t find any 
info to the contrary…) Today’s LittleNip is from that site. 
Then head over to Luna’s Cafe for Poetry Unplugged
featuring Ann Wehrman and lots of open mic, 8pm. Or—
go across the Causeway to Poetry in Davis
with Allegra Silberstein and musician Timothy Nutter, 8pm. 
Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) 
for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area—
and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.