Thursday, December 31, 2015

No Regrets

Felix the Cat
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol (1984-85)


Under the daylight elm
wanting to touch the weave
and hem of His garment
or the robe of love
after reading the psalms
at the warm frontier gate
or listen to laughter
like old St. John
on the island of Patmos
to know God understands us
under these stormy caravans
or to sit like Jeremiah
under a carob of green
by wreaths of Christmas trees
up from Vermont
you sent down to us
crowned with apricots
wrapped in fallen leaves
beneath the desired ledges
dusted with snow drops of candy
by the high leafy hedges
with gum drops
or to stand on Plymouth Rock
or land-ride by Jerusalem Road
or to feel secure
without hunger or war
in any part of the globe
if only to find our roots
by lonely lyrical vines
wanting my first fruits
before it is too late,
or walk by white cold sand
alone on the beach
longing to hear the echo
of the sea at Galilee
or hear the Rabbi teach
under a glittering dawn sun
to reach out at the Mercy Gate
at an emergency open door.



No regrets for the past year
when all we want is to gaze
at the Green Mountains
and remember those brave souls
by the fountain of the catacombs
or in the cave's secret passages
in monasteries
of our younger days
up here in Vermont
now we want to help
those bent and doubled-over
who cannot speak
for the love in us
helping others across the road
and offering them my hand
to reach out to the brothers
read as the lector
and play on my guitar
with a vacant Beat poem,
or cheer up others
with maple syrup
or to serve the divine cup
of the monastery wine.

Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1987
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat


The last of the Christmas trees
is brought out under the stars
as the directors check
tall piles of plywood and nails
near a Vermont stage and deck
on all fours by arranged bars
as actors prepare their lines
caught in a cool breeze
a few thespians worry if they are
a little wanting at their age
to rehearse the miracle plays
with tales of medieval songs,
chants, madrigals and dance
as throngs revel by the wreaths
of poinsettias, flowers, by floral
orbs and cherub's ornaments
where tiny bear cubs hide
and prance near evergreen branches
beneath the presiding manse,
we hail the mythical cast pageant
in a musical announcement
as musical parts are given out
for high soprano and alto voices
in a lyrical singing chorale
by open-garden ranches
a few gentlemen put on costumes
ready to sing carols or to chain dance
with lonely courtly ladies
in newly worn creased garments
as the art director takes on
a poet's assignment
feeling like a priest in confinement
to save souls from Hades,
here is the prodigal son
in his brand-new sandals
brought to a reconciled father
from out of a family scandal
between a time of resentment
of a father and son trial,
now behold, all the actors
have arrived on stage
at the cold riverside's edge
with a show-off-and-tell loyalty
by their skill to know
of God's love
in their middle-age roles
with a free-will offering
to newly baptized souls
as lay brothers and nuns
play their parts
with exemplary fun,
these that escaped
any mortal punishment
at an age of accountability
because of what is done
to all humanity
as is the theater's responsibility,
dramatic St. Elmo’s fires are lit
on either side of the stage
along the thespian aisles pit
everyone reads
from their own page
as if it were holy writ
in satire, comedy and wit
by the now newly reconciled
where nearly everyone smiled
here is a missionary stranger
playing an Italian contessa
bowing at the manger
recalling her Marian vision
who had repented from her sins
to her handsome confessor
another sister has a dream
and dresses up in capes for a Queen
who is her praying intercessor
by a mounted horse of the duke
hearing woodwinds
played by a St. Luke brother
with a holiday music sing-along
sharing all of love's wonder
who is wearing a scapula
and fresh stockings
who acts as an Arthurian king
who had once done a wrong
in mid-life
to his own wife Guinevere,
the chorus now sings for us
in a mood of understood belief
with perfect confident loyalty,
as a suited lover crosses over
a chocolate heart's box of Royalty
giving a kiss of peace to a knight
in a shining armor shield
made of solid gold
hearing reigning thunder
so brightly across the bay field
on top of a cold mountain hill height
there is an old rood and nailed cross
with guardians of the grail
a tale told with so much good will
which manages to thrill us,
now all covered in the dark
hailing the past reigned monarch
with poet visions of Joan of Arc
even the power elite weeps
with the martyred St. Stephen
who bows down with red flowers
at the feet of the crèche's bed
desiring to worship baby Jesus
with a bright red costumed choir
rejoicing here in the wood's
open shed,
as our Beloved is with us
sparring with the storybook
of a young Robin Hood
who took from the rich
to give to the poor
for the cause of brotherhood.

 Untitled (History of the Black People), 1983
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(December 22)

We both had part of the street
when an originally aligned
poet and artist
meet in the dark night
of the late Eightys
in Thomkins Square Park
Basquiat not yet renowned
in a weighty art history
nor was adopted by any school
or by any theorists or critics
nor yet promoted by the elite
of Manhattan
here he was alone
half-dressed in a nude shadow
drawing in people of all kinds
intellectuals and dorks
nor were we comprehending
what your great gifts were
scribbling patterns of expression,
yet Basquiat still creatively rules
lending you my fur hat
shining in the gaslight
uncombed by recognition
with your cool spark impression
of your drawing boxing gloves
to take on the world
with your gritty graffiti
you will make your mark
in a marginal world of infinity
not forgetting to be a younger star
with his enlarged almond eyes
in a human-shaped memory
of our own hunger stint
in art's own circus sideshow
with a high-five handshake
over a surprised lost miracle
from a Basquiat business
bas-relief narrative break
of his drawings of a cat
and then he was found out
to be really an original mint
making our life delicious
as we choose to honor you
for us to take your part
beyond all staging belief
in a reference frame
of an authentic genius
vetting about fame
that the popular art news
will only hint at your name.

 Untitled (Boxing Ring), 1981
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(born January 2)

"The Child of our Time"
those poetic words
by Sir Michael Tippett
embraced my baton
are heard in my retreat
up at the high podium
when my once-critical uncle
leads me (as he is director here)
as I am humming
and jamming the notes
up on the stage's pit
aware not to skip the pages
nor apologize
for my nascent enthusiasm
as the adjacent music inspector
has selected to record it
with discipline, obedience
and a miracle of goodness
I was rewarded with a chance
and assigned
to be a guest conductor
and resigned to be in a black vest
with short pants
in my Sunday best
into a rabbit-white-coat trail
with loafers on my feet
near the wise concert master
in a recital for an hour
displaying the virtuosity power
of strings, drums and choir
with a bell's peal of motioning
the orchestral mimetic beat
apparently without any flaws
or notes out of line or demise
raising my arms to applause
as the patrons rise
handing me a carnation flower
for my lapel
though I still have butterflies
in my bones for two hours
dwelling within my own conceit
in a miracle appearance for me
before my red eyes
and given a cup
of stone-cold French wine
a ways up from the bench
as a ten-year-old's surprise.


(born January 5)

Silence when only love
is what remained
of my Sorbonne horizon
on my restless search
here in Paris
in the Fifth Arrondissement
lonely by the bridge
in late dusk,
hoping like any voyant
or vagrant poet
with a prophecy of desire
at the museum window
art realized its dream zenith
in Tanguy's underground shade
of burning blue surrealism
in a pure siren glade
rescues his speculative lights
of undercurrent prism's reflection
as a light angel
of numeral design
pens his new art made
for my class advancement
in my shadowy direction lines
until the days of my commencement.

 Basquiat Under the Stars
—Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat

(for W.D. Snodgrass,
born January 5)

When the new year
submerges our dreams
I turn to you, W.D.
to on-line poetry
with an eye rhyme
realizing there is a discovery
in which time
has not passed away
but you have grafted in
and discovered us
from our livelihoods
bordering on the edge
of night and day
bordering words rising in us
all from the ice blocks
of your past confessional
in the live form of denial
when old conventions lock us in
yet steers your time
while out of breath and smile
we are trying to reach out
to companions and poets
by teaching the lesson
that our long-suffering
is only a trial of abstention
that we will survive
in our poetic recovery
from an exiled attention.


Today’s LittleNip:

I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.

—Jean-Michel Basquiat


—Medusa, with many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for ending 2015 with these fine poems, and hoping that there are none of us have any regrets floating around out there at the end of this year.

For more about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, go to or For info about the movie, J
ean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, see

 Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1960-1988