Thursday, January 12, 2017

Riding to Visit Miss Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA


Hearing "Sweet Caroline"
on my bleacher's seat
opening my luggage
switching on my razor
reaching to shave
at the Red Sox game
facing off with the Athletics
a soccer manager
and poetry fan of bz
whose sickly daughter
now recovered
once majored in my class
of Chaucer's Middle English
and later Shakespeare
we knew young Bella
and her medic fella
from Cape Cod
who gives me a shout-out
and Hank offers me a toast
and handshake
for God’s sake,
with Vermont maple syrup
griddle cakes,
a spinach croissant
and a saucer glass of wine
with my thankful satisfaction
offering me a better ticket
in a great space
to view the action
at the dugout on third base
unfortunately was my reaction
to sit near her kid,
named Stanley
with a hockey letter
on his name tag
who simply won't behave
snugly hiding in the crowd
nagging and screaming
loud words in the corridors
proudly with bad language
as he makes his way
out of the doors.



First I will decide to take
out my old motorcycle
or revved-up used car
with my kayak on top
and charge up
or set loose
after my douche
from the cold garage
as the strong January sun
quickly hits on me
with my desire to visit
the eccentric Miss Dickinson
we still refer to as the belle
of Amherst
looming large
in my own poet's imagination
knowing of her understanding
of my frequent visits
in a standing invitation
every new year
it's already crazy traffic
as a gloomy melancholy
sets in after the holidays
here over wounded roads
my hands resting
on a symphony of horns
by a cacophony of noise
along the super highways
not wanting to be a casualty
anchored to other bodies
as a troop boy of scouts
murdering their oranges
wave to me
stopping to buy violets
and a sourdough bread
at a tiny shack
back on open-ended road
feeling like John Kerouac
on his journey
wondering what I bought
to eat and for Emily
hopefully was not from a cult
but who knows
the difficulty
in this day and age
it is to have a business
or to earn
or make a living wage
and meet up anonymously
with a Dunkin’ coffee cup
for a non-belligerent friend
or even to learn or discern
from a language
whom we cannot offend
as I ride by a bearded guy
with A Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy

from that science fiction
broadcast from the B.B.C.
as I'm taking out a croissant
my aunt Sarah sent me
for Christmas
from Burlington, Vermont
from her bread and breakfast
at the student rooming house,
a red scarf, Russian hat
and my small Persian cat
from my glove compartment
hoping every day to love
dream and be reborn not cursed
under the ancient Evergreen
among a Jamesian realization
that some clever happenings
do not change
as I'm busily driving by
apple and chestnut trees
the squirrels are busy
as we pass the Esplanade
with a thaw breeze for miles
without street signs
or what passes
for law or civilization
as this poem emerges
within range
of Amherst Common
seeing a peace sign
of the Sixties
to make love not war
from Quaker fallible souls
who quietly go about
New England
with their honorable goals
hearing a talk radio station
with loud voices
force-fed on oldies
and war horses
by a riverbed
engaging with the words
of this metamorphic poet
hurting a bit on my knees
yet knowing that my verse
will be translated
in many languages
of the universe
and sent overseas.

 Neil Welliver

(NEIL WELLIVER, 1929-2005)

Up here today in Belfast
in my kayak
by an island off Maine
back in an ice fishing spot
at Penobscot Bay
close by woodland streams
thinking of Neil Welliver's
spare drawings
in his rough landscapes
of twining bare birch trees
painting in an underbrush
of snowy wonder
in Shadow
as an informer of art
defining nature for us
as a chorus of warblers
and other nesting birds
making their intensity
to partner a way by me
at dawn in a poster-happiness
from my resting words
as an intercessor in dreams
feeling like St. John on Patmos
composing and delivering
spiritual letters
as a visionary poet
it seems on an island marina
hovering over this riverbed
to be sharing in Canada.



The mature Irish
nature and nationalist poet
who composed
extended lines of sequences
as John Montague
passes away
this December
born in Brooklyn
we remember
his poetry pieces
and solo harmonies
hearing verbal echoes
and liberal assonance
met Robert Penn Warren
John Berryman
and Saul Bellow
by an academic chance
lived and died
in Nice, France.

 Jean Garrigue


A punctuation mark
of tribute to Jean Garrigue's
memory still intrigues me,
in a clearly articulated
and matriculated originality
opening a dramatic invitation
in its literary high bar
by a poet's by-laws
of cultural high gravity
cannot darken any natural spark
as a free agent for poetry
in her revolutionary shadows
going beyond all boundaries
attendant to auditory miracles
we cannot ignore
her beautiful and a-historical
less mechanical way
of performance
from an ethical resonance
in an upheaval of renewal
no one was better than Jean
in our age of
Partisan Review
with a mature dramatic ability
from her mirrors of elegance
at her out-of-doors
natural mind
in mid-century span,
I'm also another poet boasting
of her almost Elizabethan élan
depositing grammar
in verbal language
onto the dictionary scales
from fictional forms
like an emerging Persephone
of a mature language
into a mosaic of musicality
to sing and storm in a chorus
for us backed
by a contrary
human power and elegance
in memoirs of observation
from the flowering essence
of Jean's Garrigue's
gorgeous lyrical echo
not any other twentieth-
century celebrity quite like
her song and solo,
as I'm opening
her arbitrary nature poetry
from a liberality
conceding her long suffering
from a domestic policy
reaching out in my library
of arts and letters
that I read her annually
every first day of January
each year opening up
her poetry iconoclastic way
to mirror her better sensibilities
who, like me
adored Chopin, Proust
and Keats
in a mature way favoring
the far country
over the tops on mountains,
and the city stops of Boston
and going out on the sea
until she ultimately
finds and fulfills
her own unlikely identity
and timely legacy.



Today it's James Joyce's
hundred years
since the publication
of Ulysses thundered
that kept us all awake
vetted in long chapters
yet was totally persecuted
and even prosecuted
for the creation of words
and fiery choice phrases
to be brought up
seizing the force of an age
of Irish culture to be taught
holding the sipping cup
fraught with conversation
that will amaze language
to empower literature
in Gaelic and English
to be enigmatically sought
in a thrilling indirect narrative
that still makes Ireland alive
and keeps the novel form
for another generation
to survive.

  Félix Rubén Darío


After a fix
for the wounded
and hunted
for his wounded words
all over Nicaragua
Félix Rubén Darío
in Managua
slips away
in the sunshine
for it was a surreal
time of inconvenience
when every day
offered him a sentence
for life
in a knock-down
in a concealed
punching bag
he grabs onto a phrase
to save his life
from his unmade bed
he feels too fevered
of reverie
and Latin's obscure signs
in a missal
he wanders like Reverdy
like the stars
through a century
of poverty's
universal dismissals
spilling milk and riddles
by the homeless cat
seeking in language
to assuage his hurt
with revelations of solace
or in a fiesta to flirt
wishing sea voyages
in a landlocked country
he scatters like Medusa
over his pawn brokered
once-stolen globe
holding onto
Spanish proverbs
garnished spices and herbs
by a varnished table you set
my red marginalized
city notebooks
he suddenly realized
in a destiny without regret
imagining a Judas tree
near a Jesus one
with carob and hyacinths
in the sun
Darío's day
has begun in a still life
with unjust solitude
in rambles
of elegies
he adjust a bard's mood
of deflowered reunions
he knows about
after a night chill
unmasks grief
from unholy idols
and on sandy faces
and statues of saints
kisses painted-on
rungs of Jacob's ladder
from holy tongues
colorful words are plastered
on city walls
under the stars above
amid a love revolution.



At a river
near Good Harbor
as Olson
walks by crazy stones’
deposits & delivers
in his Language poetry
to an audience in Gloucester
once a fishing village
by filling the steps
of a passage
from a poet's audacity
well-wishing the shore birds
more with his perspicacity
exploring the waves
in a cobalt blue water
knotting hooks after
from the gobbling fish fry
and laughing at the squid
cooking in the oven
when his limpid eyes roving
hidden from a retina 's horizon
in a faulty covering
the glassy sea and earth
of a silent sky flight
as the plover and birds pass by
we are motioning oars
from the drawn abyss
on a common rider
where only an oblivion follows
open to thunder boats
as Olson swallows the cider
near a northern eider sea duck
with white plumage
from a luckless colored head
with soft down feathers
lining the rest
of roaring waves
at the weather west
of the underground
crashing sound reefs
and radio waves,
all the human cargo
over a half-submerged red sun
from pirated glimpses
in treasure hunts
distillations of silhouettes
over the wet docks
with egrets having measured
an adventure on these rocks.

 Edwin Albee


he said rather ungraciously
and temperamentally
in the hotel lobby
picking up his camera
in a photography exhibit
feeling numb
yet playing footsie
under the piano
in a Debussy solo
on his corner chair
but not falling dumb
in a two-toned happiness
to engineer and share,
we all miss Edwin Albee
who mounts the elevator
unwilling to sleep
downs a heavy German beer
with the freedom
of a deep hand gesture
and swish of an alligator
without any officialdom
even to piss in the sewer
until he is the greatest creator
as on a waiting play
of welcome
in his autobiography
than The Zoo Story
still a stranger to himself
with all his fame and wealth
as a new hurting actor comes
to town that he is meeting
with the back of a playbill
not in any defeating stealth
by playing at the Schubert
and Colonial theater
in Boston
and to share the thrill
in the Great Commonwealth.



From the Beat
of his San Francisco
meeting Bukowski
in the mean streets of L.A.
A.D. Winans
widely read
from the overheated lockers
at the gymnast exits
passing by
a music-rocking matinee
there exists instead
a transformed
Wolfman Jack, the man
suddenly appears
from behind our back
to perform from the dead
with new dialects
of dialectal language
instead becomes
a lyrical seer
from an anguish of 24/7
of playing musical recordings
in the most aged selfish thread
after a brief trip to heaven
from a fetid vacant smoke
into Hades
a weird itinerant poet
like Artaud,
who also died
was denied as a spoken genius
now mystified by the ladies
whom they deify
suddenly appears ahead
on Route 66
all the highways to Styx
we see the coming beast
still burns us up
with a once wise guy
out of the closet
holding out his cup
as a car jolts on arrival
with his hope of survival
from vaults and cesspools
in basalt volcanic rock
or in titanic structures of stone
from pillars of salt
needing soap and waters
cold from overflowing dope
undersold along the West Coast
by Pacific ocean reeds
motioning us from high pillars
of commotion
to fulfill all his needs
in new births, and later deaths,
scattering his five-star deeds
by breaths of brushing poses
of his artistic deeds
knowing a future expectancy
is in the cards and on his beads
with a missing joker
death warrants,
academic rants,
in antibody emergencies,
from C.I.A., K.G.B.
or the domestic Stasi
and German spy agencies
all the way from the Nazis
prearranged in passages
on passports for passengers
on ships of fools
and their hangers-on
lead by the ghost
of Charles Manson
after murderous bacchanals
still boasting
on the West Coast,
here are mustached cowboys
laughing out in rose fatigues,
sheriffs out
for the work-out wise
these guys in bending iron
in non-smoker gyms
of hungry brutes
raised from dust bowls
to take out their frustration
with a vast leap
into the deep underground
of in-fighting
sleeping out
over a qualitative leap
who circle around
on motorcycles
with new wheels
with sight-reading grenades
that their lives conceal
escaping their frozen solitude
as echoes stir
from a blind ballerina
named Katie Cinderella
whirling in a dance macabre
of a future Salome
whose fella Sam
an enfant terrible
is handwriting
with graffiti by L.A. walls
with Divine dancing
on the boardwalks
preening and prancing
with David Lockary
in a snit riddled
with his own mockery
near a jellyfish tank
of thanking go-go exiles
in similes and smiles
of his child's resemblances
over his unbalanced sheets
when echoes shot out
of an instant camera
from those chimeras wanting
to get out of
a photographic memory
in noon-day mirrors
and out-of-doors
by pallid statues
as artificial flowers grow
in San Francisco, California
with a rococo sense of light
as an unsettled guest lies
on Long Beach
playing his Basque guitar
under the stars
on rocks of ice sculptured
by a box of open shoes
and bread he sells
after the harvest
outside the farmer's market
and rests along the earth
giving out
free bell-shaped aloes
as a succulent tubular plant
at the stem and rosette
and stamping invalid passports
on sunny hot desert flats
by shadowing shadows
of those who come out
without regret
hating the ’50's haters
who yell out "queers"
in choking laughter
from a high time
after a life of crime in knots
with hand jobs
in mirrors of strife
and street wars ramped up
on campy cliff notes out
in lipsticks mirrored rouge
at the Moulin Lounge
outside Sing-Sing's metropolis
uncovered over our borders
with hunger on the streets
advertising for a bride
to ride and quoting
in huge capital letters,
let's decide to meet
sometime on the dance floor
and bring on a poet
for a partner
in the orchestra pit
before the finale's apocalypse.


Today’s LittleNip:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

—Emily Dickinson (#314)


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for his rich breakfast of poems in the Kitchen today! For more about Jean Garrigue, go to

As for Emily, whom we’ve visited with B.Z. this morning, check out this older
Publishers Weekly article, “The 10 Best Emily Dickinson Poems” by Nuala O’Connor, and see if you agree:

Today, by the way, is San Francisco poet Al Winans' birthday.


 Celebrate poetry!

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.