Thursday, January 21, 2016

Elvis, Caravaggio, and Apple Betty

Apple Betty
—Anonymous Photo
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

(for my mother, Betty,
on her 98th birthday, January 16th)

An unborn nest from the hill
cries out from a voice
of small birds calling out
between a Vermont valley
and Green Mountains
writing my pond poem
with a skeptical pen with words
barely covered with icy frost
the sky wakes up for you
as you sing to yourself
by the distilled fountain
with twenty winks of memory
fulfilling your morning alert
for your last daydream cry
still gazing up from my miracle
near the evergreen branches
by the ski loft by thanking
an angel of Israel
for saving our lives when
we children fell in an avalanche
wanting to understand
why the lichen rocks are disguised
in a dawn's flakiness of snow
as we slowly climb down
from the shadows’ lift
through snowflakes’ branches,
soon unborn trees will bloom
and blossom in a spring garden
from childhood's cold frosty path
as sounds will echo even at night
as an unwise twelve-year-old
with new-year red mittens
hikes down White Mountains
asking pardon for a nature
lost in a morning's forest
wanting to have Apple Betty
and toll house cookies
or lemon and lime pie
to dwell in my mother's kitchen
through shadows of first light
in the wellspring of time.



Feeling for a boulder's crag
from flakes of a morning
of a scary blind man's bluff
up from the snow country
on the White Mountains
of a cross-country's ski resort
on Vermont's sporting lodge
grappling with an exam
and to share my words
for a January poem slam
wanting a passionate time
from old touch-football skins
in wintry games to win
by waiting for hide and seek
in a speculation of making
my bare mark of my initials
on a named tree of life
wriggling and sliding
by holding onto a branch
on the Green Mountains
in hiking boots
on my way down
escaping fears of an avalanche
looking over my shoulder
turning my concentrating rhythms
into scuff-lined patterns
chilled in my yellow jacket
winding down pikes in shadows
as a transformation of numbness
holds me up in my Christmas gloves
yet knowing a small inner voice
offers to light my way
though shadows haunt me
watching clouds reminding me
of one of Dali's paintings
surviving the cold hands
that feed me a thin crisp cracker
covering me by eyelashes
of the morning first-light sun
as humming whispers of chants
open my heart up
to my solitary plaintive songs
in soft melodies blushing
on a parched thirsty Thursday
starting to pull me along
by snow-packed-down hills
as a dancing bluebird
reminds a solitary poet
of a thrilling childhood awareness.

 The Mountains of Vermont
—Anonymous Photo


Contradicted by the cold
beneath the rough rocks
along the seaweed
checking out my kayak
in middle of the morning
getting my bird wings
for a visit from the South
with my cousin Lee
returning from the Galapagos
to view the fauna and turtles
recording her misgivings
of the plane as she arrived
in a heart of personal equations
of likely survival
wishing her winter visit
to a poet's reading was an occasion
in a split obligation
at her sudden arrival
bringing me a poster
of Nabokov, almost disfigured
she found in a yard sale
on her travels
and a shattered rose flowerpot
of my great aunt.



Reading poems
of fate and pessimism
forgiving myself
for the placemats
of topical uncertainties
as a visiting relative
and guest
suddenly emerges
from her announced taxi call
asking for strawberries
and hot milk
night snow freezes her in
mumbling nights of memory
from a family album
in front of the lamp
our words would have been
in a cover of my latest book
suddenly eyeing
a bear outside on the field
and locking the door.

 Red Salmon in Scandinavia
—Anonymous Photo


Feeding on the avant-garde
an adolescent life
begins to pick itself up
in the public library
among missing persons
and parts of a small city
after fishing for red salmon
in Scandinavia
returning my book from the shelf
to read Soren Kierkegaard
a wise poet and philosopher
who once called himself
"a corrective"
trying to be a knight of faith
to live in a moment's discovery
surviving in a really selfish time
in his darkened middle age
discovering to be a letter writer
capable of a better love
one cannot taste or touch
yet has a closeness undercover
wanting to shout out to God
and Regina his bride and lover
riding over the wide streets
yet going home to a meal
of horseradish and beets
as if we are living alone
in a magician's dream world
of Bergman films
yet praying in familiar words
like Hamlet in Denmark
to catch his mouth on a wishbone,
seeing the ice cover the rink
in the dark marked alleys
choosing his silences wisely
wishing to think and pray
under a lamp stand
marking out a passage
his head hanging
in a humped position
thinking how to understand
wintry nightmares
going over town circles
in his snowy shoes
through spring wounds
at hours of summer walks,
watching Fall's country foliage
in a wish to serve in the light
with grace's permission
not turning into a loss of age
from our great physician's voice.



Thirty-seven years
of wishing to be known
Raphael paints the walls on
any cave, church, city alley
or dark Venetian hallway's home
to perfect a pastel art's ability
always answering his critics
in his own school
by a search for new techniques
to summon a young gentility
appearing dramatic at every forum
walking into any gallery's court
any day of the week
without even a quorum
to mark his intoxicating genius
on Roman stone and quartz,
to find his own passionate links
in a selfish assiduous way
aided of course by Pope Julius
leaving his church's sacristy
to invest in this young artist
on his own hopes
on that glorious day
when fame finally turned his way
though notoriously jealous
with those others around him
who use their own swaggering sway
to paint angels on chapel aisles
yet Raphael is justly eager
to drink from his own silver cup
with his own drawing style
to be worthy of grudging smiles
of those who are judging him
in Rome's higher-up neighborhoods
thinking as he labors he needs
to be as cruel and corrupt
as to conspire with those fools
by covering up
any defiled memory
over an over-zealous nomenclature
at his latest frescoe's signature
nor would he interrupt himself
for any blame in borrowing styles
or colors from other painters
to wash over his unique imagery
to get his name out first
and deliver his work early
on any religious scene
hiding the many pretended roles
that art critics had esteemed
for an early secretive posterity
from his libidinous nature's soul
that was needed to be redeemed,
not waiting for prosperity
in a lusty business of power
for his own curious end-game
to reach for his consummate goal
by a devil-may-care attitude,
suddenly having to change his plan
as romance turned into venal lust
which shortened his life's vitality
from rumors of an unwise curse
followed by surprised days
and long legendary dream nights
of over-stated contemporaries
interred by echoes of the Sistine,
Raphael still wears a trinity ring
around his bejeweled bountiful neck
as he was the third of three kings
who attacked with his own personal fuel
the anointing of Michelangelo
and Leonardo Da Vinci
in direct ambition to his own
yet constantly knowing his own worth
for there is no mercy in seeking
a just name on earth
and then hiding a weasel's bone
on many nights of lusty mirth,
preferring easy sensual beds
leaving a calumnious beck and call
though love was within his grasp
believing in furious Hell's mimicry
having caught a dreaded disease,
yet we know from wise Cleopatra
the snake is an ominous asp
with a vocal inheritance to surprise
taking its voluminous boastful toll
of all sensuously despised sap
whose venom will soon
leave him and his reputation dead
and away from paradise,
without much ministry's time
to paint along the gallery
its throngs of adored saints
from a gorgeous fresco's easel
to an arising heaven
for Raphael's brief time on earth
fainting away at thirty-seven.

 Portrait of a Young Woman (La fornarina)
—Painting by Raphael, 1518-1520

(1923-2004, born January 16th)

Life was suspended
for that unsuspecting hour
as Anthony Hecht
read his powerful phrases
directing our minds to our nature
trading in the literary Muse
at long-sought-out words
over his loose quatrain of thought
who taught us to think and choose
to open our own unsuspected gifts
from imagination's poetic lore,
without an arbitrary excuse
for our own sinecure
with his own politic translation
into a passionate critical spirit
arranged from his own calculation
as he crossed his knees
on a large academic chair
over an Oriental rug
awesome in his elevated insight
at an ease of reading
as Anthony excels in a legacy
with ill-fated signs connecting
to unfold new worlds
through a mighty ear of language
filling in what love attracted
and not left or lost by his age
for he reads slowly on pages
of an unsettling horror of war
reflecting over his words his view,
giving us in the audience
bereft of a second chance
to renew our impressions
of his bountiful commentary
when memory revives that time
of personal adolescence
each January the 16th
an original voice is gone
reaching out from a train ride
in the coolness of our direction
when visiting his unique presence
at my third visit to Manhattan
as if upon Hamlet's stage
at hearing his personal soliloquy
of verse set to musical showers
on the back of a swan
somewhere near Emma Lazarus
as her poem will deliver justice
over the icy brackish waters
to sons and daughters
on Ellis Island
as they land by the Hudson River.



Light from the dawn
falls straight along the stairs
into colors and tears
as clearly cut sculpted prayer
and plainsong
transforms art into a masterpiece
of St. Francis of Assisi
in Ecstasy

as you met what electrified
your life by your painting
without, purity, piety or pity,
he will soon add up the once-divide
between art and architecture
covering his eye-visions
with a part of camera obscura
that Hockney later identified
as a way of fearful insight
into Caravaggio's secret world
as hiding moments turned art
from a fresco's bright dawning
as the remnant of curtains fall
drawing in the fearful easel
of an artist's mature years.

Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy
—Painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, ca. 1595–96


Singer of conflict
and simmering agony
between a victorious
life and inflicted death story
to pass on to David Bowie
in his own persona
translates us
to keep us rocking
from our cast of mirrors
born like Elvis
on my birthday,
January the eighth
searching for a higher power
as in Kabbalah's metamorphosis
always surprising
in recognizing the genesis
of reinvention's memory
in his last hour.


Today’s LittleNip:

The truth is, of course, that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.

—David Bowie


Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today's fine poems, and a note that Thursdays at the Central Library returns today at noon (1/21) after the holidays and a roof repair at the Central Library, 828 I St., hosted by Lawrence Dinkins and Mary Zeppa. Bring poems (preferably not your own work) about beginnings, endings and time. Free.