Thursday, December 22, 2016

While Sparrows Sing

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos of the Reutlinger Mansion in 
San Francisco by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


On the train
outside South Station
a sparrow glances at signs
beating its narrow wings
and glances
at the December sun
dances and sings
on the snow
hoping a bright refrain
of my enfolding words
will be offering a croissant
and a glass of water
as the bird passing
will not be wanting light
nor cheating by its shelter.


Sparrows tremble
on my narrow walkway
as we deliver
bread like St. Francis
with a tub of water cups
from the river
on this frozen
December 17th day
fearing a ruthless wind
up from the sea churning East
watching from the inside
the birds having a feast
near the forest wood
hearing a bear cub
in my neighborhood
followed by a coyote
turn into a beast
but only wanting beauty
knowing life turns
into a metamorphosis
by writing my poetry
as if a young sentry discerns
the tongue of the avant-garde
as is my business duty.


The snow showers cease
as the luminous sun
is falling through
the stained glass windows
trying to search for
my friend Iris
to give her a word
knowing she is in the chorus
to sing a Mass for five voices
by William Byrd
but she is near the shadows
of the manger
as I hand my note
which passes to a stranger.



On a snowy December Sunday
we awoke in the A.M.
hearing the FM radio
playing the Baroque
master composer
Jean Baptiste Lully
with his Psyche
remembering from harmony class
about post-polyphony
not regretting
the knowing critics
of the motet and the Mass
remembering this composer
of France's court culture
supporting his invention
of the overture for orchestral
interlude, recitative and air
with its instrumentalist music
at the least passing scales
in different moods to share
who also wrote for the dance
and notably collaborated
with the poet Molière.


What more to be heard
out of the Renaissance
than the chorus of words
which passes
from Giovanni de Palestrina
in a book of masses
a chorister of polyphony
in the basilica
of Maria Maggiore.


It is a Sunday dawn
I'm quickly walking
tracing my search
for my red scarf
by the grassy riverbed
on the Fenway
while the snowstorm lasts
yet my break-away mind
is too fast in a rhyme
racing with chords
of the Rameau Suite
in E Minor

with its allemande
yet I'm asked to play
this French composer
of Dijon today
at my bench
of the harpsichord at church
and start to laugh
without regret or sigh
as I secretly discover
my wrap was in my pocket
all the time
and a band of rainbows
appear in the shadows
of its passing remains
in the cloudy sky
through the stained glass
colored windows.


In my Uncle Linwood
Scriven's studio
on Commonwealth Avenue
whose ancestors came over
to Boston on the Mayflower
studying piano and harmony
for an hour
at my Saturday music lesson
hearing Scriabin's
Poem of Ecstasy
then asked to play the melody
as a solo
telling me the composer
was born on Christmas day
in Russia
that in its disarray of history
he was influenced
by the romantic visionary
and lyrical pianist Chopin
that he made up his own
summary of a mystical
dissonant musical system
and a dominant veil
in an a tonal idiom
of a spectrum of mystical colors
called "Synesthesia"
introduced as theosophy
with acoustical octatonic scales
and in his various sonatas
that he was recognized early
in organized concerts
by impresario Sergei Diaghilev
it seemed from night
until a poetic dawn
I enjoyed a combination
of Reminiscences of Don Juan,

and Jupiter and Venus,
my teacher
making me compose a chorus.


Look over the orchestra
and be amazed to follow
the fragmented notes
of the Resurrection Symphony
written across
the once-prayed-up saints
in a Germany
of Mahler's family
soon to be terrorized, afraid
and doomed
yet these faint notes
in the harmony, light
from tubular bells
of once-muscular sounds
are now but faint shadows
of a tragic history.


Today being nostalgic
in the last month of the year
my calendar goes back
to Cage's “Happenings”
in dates of the 1960's
when in Manhattan
meeting this eccentric critic
of harmony and theory
in his soundproof studio
taking on serial or musical
electracoustic conditions
or eclectic dodecaphones
as he composes and transposes
lyrics for his compositions
in his busy life span
arranged with his choreographer
and partner Merce Cunningham
into your John Cage underground
unloosed his classical language
upon a scale of jazz notes
in his experimental sounds
even using the wonder
of a cactus fixing it
as an instrument for us
of his own chorus of one
with an elliptical music
of the musical dance
or in notes of Silence
as a twelve-tone field increases
in his sonatas and interludes
and Number and Pieces
from obscure geometric patterns
as a chance procedure increases
from his fixing of performances
as in Music of Changes
as in Thoreau's Drawings
from a voyeur of innovations
for improvisation charts our fate
as a composer of Branches
or in his notation variations
of Child of Tree
in his creation of fine arts
of his Ten Thousand Things
suddenly brings back
a lyrical departing
of my cultural memory.


Today’s LittleNip:


We hear on the news
about the Syrian civil war
amid its government and rebels
and their inexcusable behavior
as politicians talk
of terror, fear and war
stalking between
a breath of life,
death and strife
in an end time of the year
of the dear Jewish Savior's birth
for today I'm wishing
and remembering
as an actor
in my Original Theater
the Aleppo's references
MacBeth and Othello
yet we cannot forget
the mass murders in Aleppo.


Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s musical poetry. Music is a big part of B.Z.’s life, having been immersed in it since he was very young, and he weaves references to it, as well as to art and to dance, throughout his poetry. Music is a big part of this holiday season, as well, so it is only fitting that we devote a day to it. Thanks, B.Z.!

And thanks to Michelle Kunert for today’s photos of the Reutlinger Mansion in San Francisco. In 1886, whiskey baron Henry Brune built his dream-home. The house, an Italian Victorian, flaunted Brune’s wealth with its Turkish Parlor, formal and family dining rooms, conservatory, five bedrooms, and kitchen on the second floor. The house was later bought by another family. Then in 1952, it became the apartments and sanctuary of the Antioch Baptist Church. In 1965, Richard Reutlinger bought the house, which was by then desperately in need of repair, and set about restoring it to its former grandeur. About the player pianos: For more of Michelle’s photos of the Brune home, see our new photo album on Medusa’s Facebook page.

Gail Entrekin, Editor of
Canary, sends us this link to their new issue:


 Celebrate the poetry that is music and
the music that is poetry!
—Anonymous Photo

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.