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Other notable work by B.Z. NIDITCH.
In darkness, heart pumping, just enough blood manufactured
to make a difference to my dozing body.
Laughter rises up out of the lawn. I’m on my bicycle
steering it in ever greater circles. Shannon is
tossing baseballs like the girl she is. One lobs near my head.
Almost topples me from the saddle. The day is
composed of its elements: oxygen, nitrogen and Shannon.
Even before I sleep, dreams are restless to get to me.
My head is clean white canvas. Summer-scapes are all the rage.
Back comes the trembling moment right before the sigh.
Stream gurgles. Eyes pop. Grass smells like another species,
soft, scented, fortunate in its spreading ease.
Shannon takes my pale white hand. Shannon…
no lovelier bearer of that name.
All night long, recollections tip-toe around an ancient August sun
Blood thinks it has the night off but no, it must feed my brain,
wash away the leftovers.
Feet dangle from bank. Some swimming is accomplished.
Boy, girl, emerge dripping from the water.
They kiss. Girl says his name softly. Boy can only whisper “Shannon.”
This never happens when I am wide awake.
But the unconscious mind has more of me to go on.
You have thought about it interminably,
in grubby kitchens, on trash-littered tenement steps,
how you never asked to live
and yet here you are,
how Bobby never wanted to die,
so why isn’t he dawdling home now,
across the park, by the basketball court.
The lids of your eyes dig into your cheeks like knives.
How do the murderers, the thieves, the liars,
ever get what’s coming to them, you wonder.
Your brain feels like an overweight backpack.
Nothing more will fit and yet more has to fit.
And here comes the mailman
no postcards, just bills.
No one says, wish you were here.
Just stay where you are and pay for it.
What can I say? It’s an alley-way.
It’s a rough part of town.
There’s an old man sprawled
with his back against
the crumbling brick wall
of an abandoned shoe factory.
The best warning he can give
is the sight of himself
He grips a bottle like it’s his Bible.
It saves him from everything
but his thirst.
What can he know if me?
Has he ever read “The Great Gatsby,”
listened to Erik Satie,
indulged his European forebears
on the Grand Canal in Venice.
Maybe he was a fighter.
Maybe he drove a truck.
He can’t be me.
Bet he has no scrawled record
of every busted love affair,
each family slight.
Can he open a book of
himself at twenty, at thirty, at forty?
The only drunken poet I know
is Dylan Thomas
and this sure isn’t him.
Probably the past is so drunk out of him
that only today happens.
“Spare change?” he grunts.
What can I do?
I need my changes for my work.
WHAT HASN’T HE CHEATED ON
He cheated on the car as well,
the lease in both their names.
And that couch has been cuckolded
in the extreme, likewise the television
where the deceit on-screen is merely play-acting.
In fact, the entire room where they
sit together is such a victim of duplicity
its paper starts to peel, once bright green
turns sickly yellow.
What doesn’t feel something even if it
doesn’t know the woman’s name?
The bed? No way three fit
but does the one now lying in it
know she isn’t even there?
And what about this kitchen?
Wasn’t the way to a man’s heart
through his stomach?
She feeds you him but that
dumb stomach has no way these days
of passing on the romantic information.
Pots and pans, relentlessly cheated on..
Knives and forks… if they only knew
they’d jab the life out of the traitor.
He turns on a tap to wash his bands.
Dirt gurgles down the drain.
So that’s what water is… collusion.
The rickety ship rattles as much
as it tosses.
The grizzled man beside me
is glad just to be sea-sick.
His cousin died of cholera yesterday.
His baby caine down with typhus this morning.
His wife curls up in a corner and sobs.
There’s as much blight on us here
as rotted any a potato crop.
We huddle down in our field
of rats and sickness
to putrefy, to fester,
while we whisper of our days in Ireland
like we’re talking of the dead.
The ship lurches, the sails
slap into a wild frenzy,
the cables whip across the decks,
lash the squealing masts.
Will we ever reach America, I wonder.
I fall asleep a little.
A dream of Kerry hills.
is quickly dragged into
the swell of nightmares.
My head floods with the heaps of corpses,
too poor to be buried,
and the faces of the landlords,
grim and hard as unfertile, rocky soil.
And there’s the crowds of the nameless,
down at the gray and foul-smelling docks?
shunted into such a coffin ship as this,
and the eyes turning around,
staring back at that
green, despairing land
with the last of their bitter love.
John Grey is an Australian born poet, works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International and the horror anthology, “What Fear Becomes” with work upcoming in Big Muddy, Prism International and Writer’s Journal.
NEVER SLEEPING CITY
That nervous blind
of the blues
here at midnight
in packed clubs
living in the torque
and tongues of Bird
a stranger sweeps
by open doors
with a fugitive face
ashen with pale
runaway snow kisses
in spare arms
asking to dance
she made up her own
in unfamiliar corners
on the clay floor
in unfamiliar corners
absorbed by whispers
in vigilante beats
against a graffiti wall
of a lost sax
taken up by flashlight
of mercenary love.
the first of winter
as blind snow
kisses chestnut trees
your eyes open
on cold mountain air.
B.Z. NIDITCH is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and teacher. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world, including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art, The Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Hawaii Review, Le Guepard (France), Kadmos (France), Prism International, Jejune (Czech Republic), Leopold Bloom (Budapest), Antioch Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.