Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Day at the Cape

Table Grapes
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos of Winemaking by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Getting up
early coming down hills
in my white golf shorts
going too fast
on my motorcycle
having a fish sandwich
with the Cape's harbor master
still wearing a Panama hat
who twenty years ago
resembled Elvis
which is his nickname
who plays a nasty acoustic guitar
amid this healthy repast of salad
kale, romaine lettuce and greens
under an unruly dog day sun
yet wishing summer would last
meeting my first leaf cluster
from the Evergreen trees
on the road after a rain storm
as Elvis' melody turns me on
with his two-cents plain humor
I'm in semblance of my business
of being bz out here
lost for time
basking in rays on this peninsula
working on this poem
wanting to shop at the thrift shop
for a new hat the tourists
may have left
as this tall midnight cowboy-
hatted guy
suddenly emerges
from the visiting sailboat
with a lean Arizona desert smile
in a skin-tight rainbow bikini
asks for the rest stop
in Provincetown
as his cruising day begins
offers me his hat
but I say a prayer inside for him.

 Abstract Cask


Because it is dawn
walking alone along
reading my poetry aloud
on Crane's beach
except for one other soul
in the high tide
looking like a bride
in a canopy
over the diving board
in her bright bikini
knowing it's O.K.
and not remiss
as she walks toward me
with a kiss of peace
not thinking something
may be amiss
yet she seems so assured
and being Sunday
maybe she thinks
we are still in church
but I believe it is pure
agape love to behave
in a friendly way
maybe she wants to talk
to a runner along the Bay
along the marathon waves
reaching out by the quay
trying to speculate
what awaits today
for our itinerary
maybe we both are
waiting for an escaping date
out in an ocean kayak
for I'm asking this diver out
with a rising quiver on my back
for who really
is this laughing swimmer
beside me in her bikini
not thinking of me as
just some wise guy
who reaches out to play jazz
over the beach's sunrise
for all this soul can do in reply
is my offer to the diver
in a deep splash
or try to take on the board
the Kierkegaardian leap of faith
as I have already
secured my reward.


A lure of TT, the dolphin
fallen into human nets
of strangled fishing lines
stranded in the waters,
help is only an e-mail
or phone call away
as two Cape scientists
and volunteers reaching out
from Wood Hole
try to sedate him in his back
T.T. dangles above the sea
puzzled about it all
knowing he is lumpy
swallowing the tiny fish
we feed him from a cup
a visiting nun says a prayer
making the sign
of the cross along the rocks
knowing he is hungry
near a teeming tourist beach
as a bird's chorus wakes us up.



Feeling abandoned
off Long island
in our navy shirts
we received our sea legs
though lost in the sandbar
by the calming quay
heading for the shore
feeling my clammy palms
like a conquistador
not looking for gold
or treasure
only seashells or stones
while we recovered
by role-playing
rehearsing in scenes
of Measure to Measure
from adolescent hurts
all these waking days
where we had steak
and eggs
and some ice coffee dregs
Kurt and I
fishing for salmon
under a hot August sun.


The sea guest
waves me down
in my orange kayak
with his lyrical harmonica
my alto sax playing riffs
sounding back to him
as a musical jazz echo
on this transient hour
of early morning
the sailor, a time-traveler
at the barge docks
unloads a large salmon net
brought in baskets
setting his anchor
after flagging a Coast Guard ship
on the wind-driven shore
tells me he is a poet of the tanka
named Espinoza from the Azores
emerges from his open boat
with a Lisbon rose in his lapel
introduces me to his verse
I'm refreshing his memory
as he tells me of his Atlantic trek
from his journal log and diary
when in the rambunctious wind
he survived three winter storms
by writing transparent poetry
telling me how he survived
keeping warm under an umbrella
as he grilled a red salmon
for me with a pot of green tea
under a blazing Cape Cod sun
we play backgammon.


An actor friend from Florida
Tom who had a balding father,
Thomas Senior in Boca
a stock-broker millionaire
with a lot of savings
who owned four Jaguars,
would always get angry
every time the Marlins
would lose a baseball game
what a shame in his ravings
all over a home run
of a close play at sports
just arriving late
at home plate
his dad became out-of-sorts,
like a close shaving
Tom was in the Little League
who ate to escape
his father's wrath
when he was on the war path,
Tom suddenly put
on weight in California
until we went to exercise
at the gym
where he slimmed down,
and we started to get parts
for him in the theater,
once he played a Roualt clown
in my off-off-Broadway play,
and a priest told Tom
to relax
that he was precious in his sight
with holy angels there at night
to bless us
when he called out to Jesus
the Son of Righteousness
and forgave his dad
for his past madness
in acts of misbehaving.


A student tells me
the college library corridors
how she even consults tellers
of fortunes outside the ivy walls
watching her pocket mirror
fall into pieces
having been tricked
into blind dates
or waiting for opportunities
which never arise
or being tortured
by endless questions
in her tutored study sessions
or she waits up
for her cellphone replies
from those who drop her
name into a hat
which never fits her head
giving out pat answers
to her in class, instead
who tease and bully her
with opprobrium
and tidbits of lies,
now she is at the shrink
hoping to think
better of herself
and expects
nothing at the bar
of justice which locks her out
as she drinks hemlock
with the latest lout
true to form
who only wants her body
not her thought
she later stands
out on the roof and falls
by the dorm window and shouts
for a change of heart
but she is caught.



Here in Northampton
near Smith College
he still visits you
in the night,
after the sun sets
he pours over his assurances
that your poetry's voice
will be transforming
all you stop by
to savor words and phrases
now that he has been translated
to another foreign tongue
in a starstruck universe
from nature's landmarks green
he is glancing at us here
amid the chorus of bluebirds
flying from sheets of rain
of an august sky.



Last year you passed away
we remembering your last reading
in texts of experimentation
with a willing eccentricity
against any asphyxiated heresy
of old fashioned textbook poetry
James grooming new language
with the rough edged phrases
in my sequins of memory
naming my elegy about you,
for there is in my recollection
discloses you at seventy
with a lively spirit
in the Amherst classroom
as we discussed Emily Dickinson
when putting roses on her grave.


Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch and Katy Brown for today’s tasty, textural breakfast in the Kitchen, bringing up thoughts of California wine enjoyed at the Cape! (It’s wine-making season, after all!)

Today is a busy one in NorCal poetry, starting at noon with the poetry read-around in the Sac. Room of the Central Library, 828 I St., Sac. Bring poems (someone else's) on the subject of the two minds of September: winter and summer. Then at 8pm, head down to Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe for the 21 Years Young anniversary celebration, with a reading by Poetry Unplugged Founder Joe Montoya and music by Vinnie Montoya, plus open mic. Or drive across the Causeway to Poetry in Davis at John Natsoulas Gallery with Richard Loranger, Vincent Kobelt, and open mic, also 8pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 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.


Today’s LittleNip:

The challenge is always to find the ultimate in the ordinary horseshit.

—James Tate



 Celebrate poetry—that of your own, and that of others!

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.