Thursday, December 10, 2015

This Zigzag World

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Art by Pablo Picasso

(December 2015)

Our memories grow
in still recollection
from our consciousness
we will remember to bless
the souls of the departed
shocked to know in reflection
there is sadness among us
yet we will still smile
at an angel's easy stare
becoming aware
a star will glow in December
on our Christmas trees
or we light candles at Hanukkah
hoping for miracles
while there still height
or breath in us for vindication
from sighs of immortality
on any spiritual journey
in many wonderful directions,
we bards or troubadours
from all indications
rejoice in the woods
with hymns or psalms
recite our poetry
in our neighborhoods
remembering row after row
the silent families
in San Bernardino
as time grows in judgment
of the violent few
in civil strife at death
the memories of each of you
are significant
as any sacrament of life
reaches out to us
below the rainy sky.



The ocean rages
and lengthens on the shore
as a friend and his daughter
jutted out near the Cape's shore
from an old fishing boat
by the shoals of blue fish
swimming as sunny shadows
in the uneasy waves of waters
sense a pale gathering dusk
as the sailor drags his salmon
along the wet tall grass
soon to be cleaned
for me by my wood stove
the sky now full of rain
finding the trace of a poem
found on a napkin
written from a French café
in my grey overcoat
under the driving cold wind
by the ferryman, poet
and daughter Julie
careful of fallen wires
sheltered from the storm
eyeing torn branches
of a dead Oak tree
desiring to be warm
under logs of fire
suddenly hearing
what sounded like bees
in the lightening of a city
with great thunder
in this burly wonder
of our own mortality.


Over sleeping rocks
the last of the tourists
passes by the sandy dunes
and sits under a tree
not knowing why
share a poem of mine with her
on the quiet parking lot bench
she is an artist from Fresno
and no longer a stranger
with cabin fever
who has lost her life partner,
she is cold and I bring her
fresh clam chowder
in a still-open beach window
we speak to each other
by the shore birds
as the sea’s waves
bathe us in a vaporous rain
of life's shadow
reaching out
we say a prayer of St. Francis
together at first light
through my leafy eyes
and I play my alto sax
to the woodwinds
as she draws my portrait
on her canvas.



We are December poets
with lyrical skill,
take cover
under the windowpane's chill
on a rain or snow day
it's the end of the year,
as some of us hibernate
like a musical bear
or play classical or jazz
with harmony or care
in this starry animated time
as my violin sways
to the Tartini's Sonata in G Minor
"The Devil's Trill"
giving out a mystery
of great dexterity,
complexity and difficulty;
speaking of the Devil,
suddenly at my hallway
is my poet friend Kyle
come to visit,
who always calls me
a ragtime musician
who plays drum
in ragtime with his chops
even with an injured thumb
from his last trip to Calcutta
which left him
taking ear drops
for his present condition
and under the weather too
from India's long jet lag,
he works at a camera shop
and brings a smiling photo
of all us in his small grab bag
taken at his sister Lydia's
spring wedding
looking like the bride
at a Cana portrait by Titian,
as she walks down the aisle
with a bouquet of flowers
to receive her ring
where we all played music
until the dawn hours
in our jazz celebration
reliving our first audition
in this zigzag world of ours.


There are takers
who think they are
here to have fun,
and the givers who share
increasingly our world's words
over the ocean, stars and sun
opening up our eyes
who do a peace run
running in a Marathon
for charity's sake
and those like Quakers
Merton and Dorothy Day
who forgive the St. Francis way
giving bread to the least
even to bird and beast
we remember how Jesus rode
on a donkey to Jerusalem
perhaps in December
for Caesar's census
and the Tabernacle's feast
later giving out loaves
bowls of fishes and miracles
or how Picasso painted doves
to fly in columns of clouds
we say in our lyrical wishes,
may their bowed souls increase.

Born December 9, 1830

Dusk covers Amherst
the Autumn wind
has made the Oak
leafless and scattered
as acorns fall around my feet
as students and I
present hyacinths
at your burial ground,
for your December ninth
we hear tiny sparrows sound
and we stand around and recite
by startled whisper of willows
not willing to leave or depart
without sounding out
a few of your verses
by the nests of tiny birds
who linger for bread
near an Evergreen
called so many names—
minister, singer, spinster, sister
who will always be read
by those with a willing ear,
though the skies may change
their colors in a robed night
and the seasons record
critics who favor you,
we dispatch every pardon
catching us in a first light's span
here in this patch of garden
the sun is out for you, Emily
whose words rise like fire
out of the late Fall ashes
as long as we desire.


(In Memory of Delmore Schwartz,
born December 8, 1903)

A jazz trumpet is heard
to sing over the buildings
on the roof of birds
a poet of boundless words
has lost it
amid his Manhattan chambers
but it is your special day
some will remember
December the eighth
but at this time, Delmore
you do not trust anyone
or cannot even make a rhyme
as you raise your blinds
to this day's sun,
punch drunk
on your own mortality
crazed by black birds
on the fire escape
feeling lost and cheated
out of life and shape,
the city smokes its own
as you empty your ashtrays
on a threshold of breakdowns
near your dry bones
when no suicide note amends
or any way atones,
noting the skyline has dozens
of oven birds rising up
as you pour more liquor in a cup
near Jacob's ladders
staring at the logged fireplace
with radio news and music on
as night slowly falls
over the drifting snow,
yet not moving out
for there is nowhere to go,
your youthful dreams now aged
growing into a pathetic madness
even when a friend and critic
from the Times dares to visit
you walk barefoot to the door
but do not open it,
lying here with living words
a well-known poet paces the room
feeling alone
with his melancholic gloom,
with volumes of words
written at your desk
only your pride is intact
a soul now delirious
wishing to be that kith and kid
in the school hallways
wanting always be No. 1 in class
or the serious teacher's pet,
it's another December 8th
and Delmore you have hid here
for years without remorse
with labyrinths of no recourse
except to drink heavily
or take pills
using crayons for graffiti verse
or making up cartoons
for an afternoon
over troubled walls
feeling doubled-minded
and blinded to any feeling
to any vision from Dante
that needs love to be revealing
in your requited sadness
as any insomniac in your flat
nothing wakens your memory
from any passion-fruited sun
you tremble in dark shadows
from your hurting back
yet suddenly you remember
the statue of Rodin’s
The Thinker
in a book of drawings,
yet you sleep only with
your Luciferian pride
in knots from self-pity
tasting the bitterness
of raw herbs
deciding to pass over
any promised land or city
or to desire like Dante
that you share a kiss
from Beatrice
or take a bride
in the morning cool air
not wanting another birthday
to share with a friend
over these dirty sheets
on your unmade cot
demanding the world
give you recognition
that deserves a five-star pin,
with an open mouth
of cigarettes and Cuban cigars
convinced in your clever solitude
without a contact or contract
to live as a moody recluse
not washing your face
with an unnerved heart
forgetting your fan letters
leaving not even one
when you depart
as you tie the laces
on your cheap shoes
no one embraces you
it's as if you are on fire
only by your own anger
even at this unholy hour
the singer of Manhattan
is never reborn.

Born December 9

We visited Plymouth Plantation
Thanksgiving week
with several students
from many nations
we read from Paradise Lost
knowing your birthday
is coming up
and show pictures of you
from the public library
with your early writings
believing you are in heaven
by angel wings
we toss stones in the Atlantic
with messages in green bottles
enlightening the outside world
about us in the Fall of 2015
we approach a deer
who blinks at us
under brambles and branches
at the quick waters spring
overflowing on this holiday
O John Milton, you voyager
reach out us to us, join us
in a chorus of English majors
we are no longer strangers
of your Puritan friends
now in New England
as pilgrims and companions
celebrating your poet life
and singing a birthday hymn.


Born December 13

He was an articulate voice
of the San Francisco Renaissance
his cool verse created
a new reaction in our ears
we miss Kenneth Patchen
with his jazz violin, sax
drums and woodwinds
made clear
in musical satisfaction
of a twentieth-century
along our sun-baked streets
as a Beat against war
in a labyrinth of power
as your inheritors renew us
from Whitman and Blake
this December thirteenth
we celebrate this hour
as we awake with you.

 Child with Dove

Born December 10, 1891

We remember you
on December the tenth
for all your strength
from the attacks of darkness
near the smokestacks
and ashen faces,
it is not goodbye, but yes
to the life of Nelly Sachs
though time may delay
we honor her memory
on her birthday
by barren boughs
on trees in Germany
new leaves may grow
letting in the light to disclose
that there is a spring
of birdsong in the breeze
after the long snows.



Against the time,
the grain,
the opinion of others,
often in the wilderness
through no fault
of my own
tossing my own sand pebbles
and stones into the sea
walking alone
in a Whitman universe
yet finding the body, bride
and print of a painting of Christ
by Roualt in my room
hidden under the lamp
I once built with reflection
that a candle will hold us
from seasons of indifference
where the festival of lights
and Christmas intersect
in a language of brotherhood
no frozen heart will abide
in this vacant neighborhood
nothing will muffle our voices
to give a sign of peace
in his poetic right hand
safe-keeping this Beat
in all good memory
to always pardon
with a universal tongue
and keep alive a miracle
at this Zen crossroad
of an empty garden.


Even a nameless road
accepts us
as a consuming sunshine
overtakes my walk
watching a string of sky birds
leave for a warmer climate
after the first dew of morning
along a busy highway
this poet at the puzzled woods
still rejoices he is alive
in a wilderness of dawn
shuddering at first light
as a fawn appears in the snow
lost in dazzling moments
when my mind plays
a jazz sonata for oboe
just composed at 5 A.M.
life moves on quiet sidewalks
where boys play bocce
and one child hurts his knee
bends down and is smiling
again on our undated days
we watch our zigzag hours
pass by an old tourist boat
homebound for the holidays
in the Bay's harbor
as liquid raindrops
sparkle to disconcert us
there is always another time
for a recital of music,
words, love, chess, backgammon
for our lives ask to be creative
as those vibrations of eternities
to reflect nature's longing
for a songbird’s immortality.


Today’s LittleNip:

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.

—Pablo Picasso

Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poems, including his inspiration for Picasso's doves! To hear Itzhak Perlman play “Devils’ Trill” by Giuseppe Tartini, go to See also''s_Trill_Sonata


 Picasso with Dove