Monday, August 18, 2014

As The Camera Rolls...

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Denise Flanigan


The chatter will cease
by the blue lake
as everyone wants
their picture taken
and after my binoculars
are put away
after watching the larks
high on the green mountains,
and taking out my camera
shy children evaporate
and scatter on the fields
a boy batter hits a single
in a homemade diamond
adolescents make a date
others complain about
suffocating in the sun.



In Edinburgh
with my uncle
doing publicity
for a new film,
being entertained
by the band
Camera Obscura
in 1968
my Aunt Lena
dressed in Highland
designer jeans
with bagpipe prints
in the background
puts lotion on us all
for the sun was lambent
at the Princes St. gardens
seen from our lens,
we were told
that old Aristotle
understood the principle
of the camera obscura
and the Chinese scientist
Shen Kuo invented it,
then we meandered
though the hilly countryside
among the Scottish primrose
and heather moorland
awaiting our flight
back to Hollywood and Vine.



With our saucy saucer eyes
in black sunglasses
after a restless series
of Hollywood bed nights
my uncle asked me
to take the pictures
of a starlet and get them
developed before
a screen test
and Ithaca
with her new stage name
the big studio guy
chose for her audition
which was changed again,
wanted to tag along
with her poodle
named Puff Puff
entered the store
(she already told my uncle
of her high-strung history
with rapid crushes
so as a former boy scout
I was already prepared
for anything)
when the pictures
came on the counter
Ithaca had a fit of such anger
at how she perceived herself
ripped up all the pictures
not only of herself
but those of others
in yellow envelopes
then breaking anything
of glass in sight
the L.A.P.D. were called
and she was taken
to the police station
and questioned,
then my uncle
called in a psychiatrist
later she became a star
even has her name
in Hollywood's Walk of Fame
and I had to promise
never to reveal her name.



my first Broadway play
(I am a Camera)
my eyes transfixed
over the stage
close to the orchestra pit
intensely listening
to the sounds and language
of the reputed actors
speaking to us
on a bedazzled matinee
here in a full house
in my short pants
and blue tie
bashful in my voice
with a memorable recall
of lines held in check
as my steady hands
open the program
reading the asterisks
and naming every star
in all their disguises
after the curtain call
watching my uncle
agitated for the review
he had to turn in
for the midnight Times
drink his disquieted beer
explaining in German
the novel's plotting themes
to another patron
with a Harvard education
in drama and film
with his zealous nephew
trying to catch all of it
with a new-found courage
wanting to write
his own first act
as twenty years later
we are back here
in the Cold War days
watching Cabaret
based on these Berlin stories
with Liza, Garland's daughter
and Joel Grey backstage
wanting autographs
with my first play
set for off-off Broadway.


In Manhattan
on a sleeping car
playing sax
with infinite riffs
of stress and weariness
from a sensational felicity
near my exercise room
at the Chelsea
the ex camera rolls
after our readings
near the Y
buying a Lunch poem
from Frank O'Hara
at the Cedar Bar
and seeing Andy
in his "Flesh"
and talking to
his once-shaved extra
demanding shock
with cosmetic speech
in an all-night party
skipping out early
with my notes
for future poems
and leave the Big Apple.


(Aug. 11, 1892-Sept. 9, 1978)

Close to the black lungs
of many miners down deep
into the bare earth's surface
from brutalized
back-breaking work
and rundown disease
you probed and swallowed
with your speech in tongue
from gorges down the lowlands
and lovely highlands
of the Scots' language
with class in struggle
for justice
never forgetting
a handshake or common touch.


(Aug. 11, 1892-Feb. 4, 1970)

When presented with Medusa
Louise Bogan's first collection
lyric hours
never stopped for me
as her timeless hair
of a venomous Gorgon
full of snakes
and the feminine flowered
within a serpentine speech
knowing what
you suffered
the breakdown in language
of mind and body
as you remain
on the top shelf
of my bookcase
I made out of pinewood
next to my elephant lamp
of Alexander the Great
created at night's electricity class.


(August 12, 1857)

Awake, awake
as a young visionary
William Blake
hinted he saw Ezekiel
the unique prophet
under a still tree
filled with angels
forsaking time
abdicating his fate
for the zest of a higher cause
as painter, illustrator
knew his aching life was
not a piece of cake
but in his moving tongue
and Soho space
created his own mystique
on feverish plates
and colorful prints,
we pause today
never to forsake you
for you are not dead
knowing you are greater
within your own clever laws
in the quest for your Creator.


Every August 13
Alfred Hitchcock,
(your birthday)
I put on one
of your film noirs,
facing down
on my television set
with your brilliant camera lens
in place for a good evening
as you say,
my imagination rises
with the sound
from loaded gun ranges
of the accuser
victim and perpetrator,
not knowing the ending
or pretending not to know
as one year, loud birds
off the water entered over
my white porch slate roof
I was working on,
as our eyes
suddenly from the shock
of the loud bird calls
became blameless
and our voices
of mortal scream and speech
reached the neighbors
who finished the movie
and the homemade popcorn
with us.


(for Robin Williams)
To speak other lines
as a stand-up comic
when you need help
that entwines
your own sorrow
is to go beyond
the unfazed reality
looking the other way
from your flesh and blood
in a circle of darkness
until the sun's tomorrow.


Today's LittleNip(s):

In a poet's conception we ourselves became a camera lens perceiving images.


A poet reads a reflective phrase for the lens; the camera will not return his gaze.

—B.Z. Niditch