b.z. niditch | les temps modernes


Beyond sunny Hanging Gardens
One pardon for the world
while in eternal cities men argue:
Hail Caesar in Palestina,
with legions by the Palatine,
while near a Roman canal
and dying ruins
a poet visits the gods
of Prosperpine, Babylon and the Jew.

The harlot out of Tiber
walks arrayed
in scarlet cloth
while behind her
history betrays armies
of the Huns and Visigoths.

A Victrola plays
“Heart to Heart”
the stage is set
for Sarah Bernhardt,
and King Victor reads Savanrola,
royalty mourns its days
without the high priest’s roll
the crowned fish heads
like the Baptist in Fiesole.

High culture
packs its bags
in a dozen words
Joyce pens ” The Portrait” in Trieste
Eliot pontificates after Browning
on the damned
among Pound’s rags.

The guest card names
are now gone
Conrad, Ford and James
lost to friends
of discursive English
from the Holy War of words
eaten slowly in the dish.

And the wine
which communion takes
is consumed
in one critic’s earthquake
modernity dies alone
(like modesty)
all borrowed art is fake.

Aesthetes wash
none of each other’s feet
they have met to quarrel
on the Montparnasse
crowning no laurel
with absinthe in the spas.

The son of man
is kissed twice
on the high brow
through Blakean night
in the dice of his robes
gambled in the available night.

On alabaster chairs
the slaves whisper
they will be master
while in Florence
the talk is of D.H or T.E.
along the roads
a dusty, less noble poverty.

A time without a room
for Babbit and Hulme
who with stick and carrot
await the modern sublime
while Wyndham
proclaims the ” New Age”
Yeats relapses
in Blavatsky’s tarot
and Auden turns another page.

No one hears
the jazz piano sounds
except loudly in the Savoy
Quarter and Underground
while under Saturn
the poets demand Dante
a return to Latin.

Lenin fools the Utopian
and futurism the Italian
Hitler and Stalin
on mass political platforms
now madly Aesopian,
in the same uniforms
all false hopes
through Spain,Munich
and the Ethiopian.

Children in Rotterdam
along the Kurfurstesdamn
in Amsterdam 8
crucified on a string
along the city proper
the furnaces of affliction
by the Palatinate
the blood of snows
turns to spring.

Hail Pilate so great
as forced the king
in rain god thunder
to abdicate,
the blood of Abel
cries out
Narcissus pisses in the Rhine
cold and frozen
in a chosen mirror stains
a poet shivers
in the Orwellian remains.

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