Saturday, August 10, 2013

Judy Katz-Levine WHEN PERFORMERS SWIM, THE DICE ARE CAST (ahadada books, tokyo/toronto; 3158 Bentworth Drive, Burlington Ontario Canada, LM& 1M2, 2009) ISBN 978-0-9811704-3-5; 150mm x 5 7/8” X 210mm, 8 ¼”) cover photo: Joe Zanghi [no price]

It's been a few years since I read & reviewed a chapbook of Judy's. Back then I lived in Wellesley Sq. MA & carolin combs my spouse (d. 26 JAN 07) was alive. I've changed. My impression is that Judy has, too; but she doesn't think so, so my old reviewing style: quote one whole poem, make a few comments, let you readers do the rest, seems inadequate, so let me start by saying there's a fibrousness (one of my fave words) to this chapbook that the one I reviewed before lacked (or so I recall.) What's fibrous about it? Complex density, mixing personal & surreal images; I don't really know how to read surreal stuff, so I'll start with the (mostly) personal.

I GET BY (p.9)

I get by. When having a glass of wine, I get stern. My
doctor says I shouldn't drink at all. And what with all the
medicine I take, sterner still. The drummer was playing a
fast marimba beat to a slow sad ballad and I got off, got in
a good solo. (1) So many yellow leaves, & the stars. I've
had a revelation. Seaguls float. The sax (2) was smooth,
from his days on the road. That was at the party. The
drummer, a woman, said “sometimes you just have to
shake your money-maker (3)”and did a little shimmy behind
her drums and grinned. I loosened up. Laughed.


(1) Judy's a jazz flutist.  (2) Her husband's a saxophonist. (3) aka: booty.

Got it? You may think you have, but now watch: just turn the pg:


when performers swim, the dice are cast. Sounds like a piano
doing ragtime, echo of the voice of a clown across the sea.

when performers laugh, the trees whistle as if hearing.
jugglers on sand dunes remember.

when performers tango, stages turn into bridges, an aster in
a garden blooms.

when performers teach, a taught drum vibrates, a Native
American flute holds its breath, then come the long notes
haunting an audience.

When performers die, the oceans leap up as keen as seals
emerge and fly.

Now, for a fibrous mix, turn to the next pg. (11)


I lose my place playing flute in the samba. The trees
quiver in brief wind. A hot wind. Rain. When looking out
The window sable scarves. Losing one's place is like
tripping not falling. The pianist grins. We go on to another
tune, “Corcovado” and I redeem myself.

Day of gifts like blue hydrangea. I remember a
grandfather who loved to fix watches – the gears in the
jars. You empty a jar of screws you use to fix your sax
mouthpiece. Enlightened look on your face as you
concentrate, barely noticing my presence, my ego lit up by
a new book.

Tired after listening, we sleep. I dream of my mother,
having a party. For this one she has two plump helpers.
They are my brothers. She takes a photo of them
standing together, but refuses to take one of me. Then she
relents, after teasing me this way, and snaps.

Now do you get it? How about this? Jump to p13:


One person leads to another and to another
Stressed as a mime, playing drums and flute
in the square, I in a red-striped jersey and jeans – beret -
when he came, holding flowers, also dressed
as a mime, in white face, when strangers were passing.

And the sun gave us a strange light
like the light in a clearing in
the woods
of New Jersey,where sassafras undergrowth exists
and I thought of him there when we were kids -

But the white glare of the sun
now as I awaken 15 years later
reminds me of a man in shredded garments
face chalk-white so long ago, eyes black, black hair
coming up from a shaved head like grass
standing in the sun
before he fell

Can I assume you're getting it by now? (Even I am.) btw, both of her grandfathers (one tinkered with watches), died of heart-attacks. Her career as a jazz flautist continues.

Leading us to this fibrous coda on p22:


trees with leave like the hands of prodigies.
a boat still in twilight, in the neighbor's driveway.
a son about to redeem himself.
lilac with 9 unripe flowers.
saxophone moaning its scales, ready to play Monk's
“Ruby My Dear”.
prodigies who can't control their thirst for knowledge.
prodigies who can't fit in, and talk strange languages.
prodigies who wait for the morning”s river.
being 4 years old that time of glistening forsythia.
being 4 years old that time of grandpa's lap and the watch he fixed
just before he never came back.
being 4 years old and speaking perfectly.
saxophone mourning its scales like burning lilacs, ready to play
“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes”
saxophone twittering its soprano notes as dusk flies in.
a boat in dry-dock but someday it will float.
a boat in dry-dock by the house catching last light.
a boat not quite ready, but we are patiently waiting for that day.

Demonstrating JUST how she can sum-up & sur-pass herself...

(I'll be back with more of her poems & my linkages.)

[BC: 20 JUL 13, Valley Village 4-4D, Santa Clara CA]

No comments: