Thursday, October 06, 2016

Underground Thunder

Galaxy III, 1968
—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Artwork by Enrico Donati (1909-2008)


A boat off the north shore
drags by slowly
as Gloucester voyagers
leave the port of Boston
into a night visitor's horizon
through lyrical sounds
in mirrors of familiarity
all along the Atlantic
by ice-fishing corridors
as a rowing luminous light
swells in the ocean
a young fisherman waves
to a few tourists singing
in Portuguese or Spanish
while hauling in salmon
for whom daylight opens
by scattered wet leaves
from Elm and Evergreen trees
recounting T.S. Eliot
as slight footfalls vanish
on a half-hour's walk
near the church steps
by a river's marina
as an auspicious breeze rises
far from any commotion
Eliot addressed the darkness
in rhythmic knots of prayer
from words of affirmation
and says to his Lord, "Yes.”

 Aswan II, 1983


Three Beats
put their feet
into the cold Charles River,
Kerouac, Rexroth and Creeley
and open their enfolded eyelids
as Evergreen trees yawn
near family garden plots
yet no one tells their secrets
or seeks anyone's pardon
over at Riley's
Cambridge jazz night spots
as dear John and Jane
love letters are composed
and sorted by city gossips
as dawn slips by
at the Mt. Auburn post office
by the dead-letter file
under smiling Uncle Sam
by protest notes on Vietnam
in a time of Apocalypse,
yet we are not near
the Department of State
but at our zip code 02138,
here at Mt. Auburn Cemetery
where Robert Creeley rests
at the back of Harvard Yard
rests comfortably
as our guest and bard
yet we are also thinking
of Jack Kerouac's Boston-
Californian connection
as we few who demur
to find satisfaction
at his transfigured reaction
from Malibu or Big Sur,
we recognize what code
of honor echoed
from his surprised ode
receiving his literary prize
under a novel cover
of On The Road,
others would be surprised
by Beat feelings
for the bench and cloth
from a Catholic Kerouac,
unlike Creeley and Rexroth
his brothers are worldly wise
often taxing one to another
and rise as the scholars
drying their shirts
darning socks
and cleaning collars
trying to relax
off the Pacific rocks,
each with arbitrary whims
or fragmentary ambitions
in folios, cantos, descants
by refrains and chants
against pro-war politicians
into a arbitrary span
of burnished invoices
finding a JFK half-dollar
within reach
of a new politician's speech
sent from Widener library lines
out to UC Berkeley or UCLA
under the peace signs,
by the way stopping off
on the highway
playing blackjack
at Reno's tables
someone else is ably winning
or losing with a priceless regret
from their dice games
spinning twice at roulette
while listening to the news
and all wanting to go
to Vera Cruz.

 Courants électrique, 1947


Wondering what it's
all about,
it looks like the rain
took over the drought
this noon hour in June
perhaps here in Venice
there are many weddings
by a bevy of sailboats
which suddenly collapses
in a Whistler's fog,
wondering if this is an omen
on a dusky late afternoon
by traces of grey-sky clouds
over crowded canals
and a shrouded lagoon
visiting my successful niece
and dramatic coloratura,
looking like a portrait
by Matisse
originally from South Carolina
who lives her summers
in China, Maine
marries under the rose trellis
of a merchant's canopy
who carries one marigold
in her musical hands
over her dark tresses
reminding me
of a Fra Lippo Lippi
in my photo of her
in a soft Joie calliope dress
by her solid enfolded train
from an Italian designer
who sings to her
a lyrical wedding aria
of Verdi
from La Traviata chorus
with a hired band
in the dark corridor
as I recite poetry by Verlaine
and play on my tenor sax
a tune of Tchaikovsky
from Francesca da Rimini,
as this operatic actress's life
was on hold and gone
in a metamorphosis
to relax for one week
on this cloudy honeymoon
without the lofty loneliness
of her thirty-year situation
when Opera News
with her often on the cover
as Terpsichore
was her only Muse and lover.

 Eclipse II, 1968


Admit it
when you played
the cello in June
a Beethoven sonata
in C major
at the charity gala
your poet-mind opened
in its peculiar chemistry
of its own familiar
musical alchemy
then you decided for an encore
to search in my repertoire
for Hindemith's
viola lyrical sonata
then you searched to ask
for the church chorus
to sing a Bach cantata
and conclude with a tune
about a flirt
of Burt Bacharach.

 Alaska, 1991


Chilling out is to be content
Jacques Laurent knows
at the St. Denis event
there are troubles spent
at the Paris tennis courts
yet he is sufficiently buoyed
by his inefficient opponent's
support of his serve
letting everything of nerve
bounce off of him in sports
still in white shorts though dirty
of the boy he knows
from the old school of 1930
aware of a doubles match point
without a swear to pronounce
yet is not transfixed to annoy
or from any desire for trouble
but by the masked strength
in the business of catching fire
from his belly of obligation,
as his brother Guy the other guy
though snatching off
pain and disdain
though higher in height and length
by conserving humorous laughter
takes his running mate's invitation
knowing who he is after
not with a desire to resent
but to repent as with an oblation
as a Christian gentleman
observing the court's rules
not by berating but by observing
and serving his obligation
as in his religion
escapes with the marvelous score
intact as in a war sport for skin
with someone is out after blood
the other opens an invitation to win
even in the mud
the brother does not choose
but to be contented in the sun
in his situation only to lose.

 Fist-Face in Tree Stump, 1947


Attended Brinnin's lectures
on poetry's modern sound
his open-ended
talks on Dylan Thomas
Eliot, Auden and Pound
from the Norton anthology
of English and American
poetry with literature's attention
to Robert Browning's verses
and Rabbi Ezra's character
in his finest dramatic monologue
of a wishing lyrical adventure,
then after my string
and cello class
I played a Gypsy air's solo
of Sarasate's "Zigeuenerweisen"
for Dr. Brinnin
(as a dialogue observer, critic
and a proctor of the violin)
it was a partisan selection
in an East European folio
with musical perfection
though with a comic laughter
to at least get in
a Roma-Klezmer's skin.

 Saimant, 1990


Returning from the outback
in my rented kayak
by the shoals
we could not fail to notice
a boy is having a tantrum
along the Australian beach
of Byron Bay
where surfers reach out
on giant waves today,
yet complete strangers
under the strong sun
with sharp faces
reach to tell Samuel off
because of the way
he behaves
not telling him
of God's love
nor singing
a grace of a hymn
with thoughts
from up above
but they only speak
with harsh criticism
of the Pharisee
bashing his reason
for even being here
on the sand at this season
out of school
while sharing a handful
and slew
of wrathful
proud phrases
making him
feel more lost
and on trial
in disgrace
on a foolish path
ending in
Hell and perdition,
these ignorant,
uncaring souls
not knowing
as Christians
the old gospel
is to be told anew
to every Gentile or Jew
while here
without ambition
watching Samuel's
lonely human condition
he is not well
in the sand lot
has a cold and cough
and they are
making him feel
like he is on
hot coals
or as an ant
to the slaughter
now spotted
with a torn shirt
without a button on
but skirted
in this place
he does not smile
but hurts
under this hot sun
with his pale
lemony kite
lost in a sack
of sky
the crowd
telling him
that he has
a muddied life
and going to die
with not much of
a vacation
held only
by family strife
and having
only one ration
from a rack
of mutton
looking quite
the sight,
yet through
an eye-gate
of a school teacher
once an
itinerant preacher
with his daughter Kate
who is
a lyrical poet
has understood
Sam's circumstance
and feed
as a brother mate
tending to
his flesh
by the miracle
of spirit
offering him
fresh salmon
and a cup
of mineral water
as good
forgiving Samaritans.

 Sans Titre


We witness
(as in a prism of my dream)
Georgio de Chirico
as in a surrealism view
of Yves Tanguy
and Valentine Hugo
on the museum wall
by Braque and Picasso
near where Dali dreams too
as we are enraptured
in the studio of Jean Moreau
we are now moving to rows
by the egos and id
hid and captured
in the sculpture
of Giacometti
and Italy's artistic
culture from Donati
as in this cherished rhyme
of asymmetries
in a metamorphosis
of enigmatic geometries
in memory of his friend
the bench master and mentor
surrealism's foremost critic
the French poet André Breton
and from the Swiss canton
of Meret Oppenheim
the three of whom met in Paris,
then we go toward the Japanese
whom we will not miss
those famous dada paintings
poetry and photography
in the marvelous eye
of the camera
at Yamamoto from Nagoya
now let's go the movies,
let's not be embarrassed
to retell the kissing scenes
from dramatic solidarity films
in the Spanish dialogue
we know so well
as critics speak
from Spain, Argentina
and socially from Mexico
in modernity's catalog
as art will not vanish
in a monologue's part
from the latent nostalgia
of Luis Buñuel,
Freida Kahlo
and Diego Rivera.

 Decalomania #11, 1944-46

(In Memory of W.H. Auden)

As a modern poet
Auden in his realization
that words are a conduit
of the spirit's creative love
obliged his readers to quit
expecting concepts
that we learn (as in Latin)
will fall into the same pattern
calling us
with avuncular recognition
to his verse's entertainment
often located in his brain
at his nerve endings
from a lexicon and dictionary
(which are his renderings)
we once read in the library
are merely from his train
of arbitrary remnant thoughts
(and not his pretending)
which suddenly move us
as we learn to soften
(our contrary beginnings
and endings)
and our out-of-the-question tones
in our exemplary life
are not permanent
with its accents
of eloquent
muscular generalizations,
we must now own up
and adjust to grown up
taking the refrains
(in own rife history
of dry bones)
with its own variety of strife
(yet often we secretly know
as scribes within)
how in a vernacular society
we multiply
the spectacular answers
from postscripts
of a century ago
that once proposed
the pure sonority
of ballet dancers
in those bits
of music chits composed
from a melody once classified
in critical tablets
up the scale
side-by-side with another's ego
are really only our vertigo
which will not fail,
now as Beats we are far away
from the vibes
of a classical or lyrical time
into a subscriber’s jazz
without tribal images
of the past
but making
an all-new grammar
which will outlast
(as a verbal conflict)
in our time to hammer out
any small redundant phrases
out of our philology
to connect
and to direct
a proud and roaring
yet coherent culture
to elect and sing out loud
with pleasure,
not to disdain
the old-fashioned phases
but now to expect
an impassioned future
in a leisurely relaxed age
to subscribe, inspect and praise
(as heard in a tenor sax)
with an experimental language
of the reigning Word
from an elemental jazz skeptic
where statements and riffs
sound out to be
(open to our new relaxing voices)
and to be critically reset
in the Blues of wonder
taking up the secret refrains
from an underground thunder.


Today’s LittleNip:

Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.

—W.H. Auden


Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for a toasty breakfast on this tasty Fall morning! For more about Enrico Donati, go to

A note from Dr. Andy Jones in Davis: If you haven’t yet submitted an entry to the Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest, the editors will be reading entries until midnight, October 6th, so you still have time. There is no entrance fee, but there are cash prizes available to the top prizewinners, as long as they can attend the reading and prize-awarding ceremony beginning at 7pm on Friday, October 7th at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st Street in Davis. A live jazz duet (or maybe even a trio) will be there to perform with the poets. As with the Academy Awards, none of the “nominees” will know who has won until their names are announced, and they are asked to come up to read. It’s a one-of-a-kind event that kicks off the Jazz Beat Festival ( See for contest submission guidelines.



Celebrate poetry, and make it part of your “best life now” 
by attending one of the local readings tonight: Sac State of 
Poetry with Cynthia Linville, Daniel Rounds, Maxwell 
Stenson at CSUS, 6pm; Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe 
in Sac., 8pm; and/or Susan Kelly-DeWitt and 
Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus (2014-2016)  
Katherine Hastings at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. 

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