Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Two Poems By Steve Dalachinsky

If you find yourself at an avant-garde jazz concert and poet Steve Dalachinsky is not in the audience, you probably have the wrong address. An unparalleled jazz aficionado, Dalachinsky has soaked in enough of the music to attempt the impossible: to create the same indescribable, musical feeling through words.

But with distinct influences of Dada and Surrealism, a Beatnik sensibility, and a dry sense of humor, Dalachinsky really does not like to be branded as a jazz poet. Or branded in any way for that matter, because, as with real, experimental jazz, descriptions grow stale the minute they are formulated, left far behind the racing, morphing voice. As Nietzsche said, things are dead once you’re able to say them.

In Dalachinsky’s poetry, however, thought flows like a saxophone melody: alive and unhindered, suggestive rather than descriptive, fragmented, and held together with a musical sort of logic.

Dalachinsky’s books include the PEN Oakland National Book Award winner “The Final Nite” (Ugly Duckling Presse), as well as numerous other publications, chapbooks, and liner notes for experimental jazz recordings. His 1999 CD, Incomplete Directions (Knitting Factory Records) features a collection of original poetry read in collaboration with musicians such as William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Vernon Reid (Living Color). Among his recent recordings is “Phenomena of Interference,” (Hopscotch Records 2005), a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp.

On June 30, Dalachinsky will be joining me for a performance on the roof of the Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In the meantime, here are two of Dalachinsky’s recent poems: 

the synagogue in st. sebastian’s square  
 
photographs of pieces
  of close ups
scab-wiggled shapes
horizontal memories / drinking tea
   eating jealousy
            hands running wild away from secondary thwack
sebaceous schooner scuttle atop
                   stone upon a dead black sea
          awake from pillows of bitter salt  
                 a secular sulker
 
 mosaics of moses
      pharoah’s daughter finds bones to pick
              dimpled flesh aloose in the bulrushes
                    cemetery of darkcloth where ram stood
                         & horn blew
           crystal off shore caught in rigor
                     rigger caught in mast ropes
                                 my people leave the hull & wander
                                                    upward toward the statue
                   & other false idols
                               pyramids not built in a day
                          plague a pully we from bully passed over
                                    growing up a deliverer
                                           never to enter a land of harsh promises
                                                   crooked kabal carved in every nite
                                betrayal of trials & caved in broken columns
                                               contrariwise clockworks blue lady candle burn
                                                                shepherded
                                                cash being able to chemicollage electric self enslavement
                                                                     never having been sold in the market
                                                                          the burning bush burning still
                                                                            
                                                            i am my only son.
 
dalachinsky from 2 fragments and improv 5/15/10
 
                        
The First Cemetery of Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue (1656-1833 )

inside chinatown’s thigh
near the edge of st. james’ cross
by oliver street
& described as “OUTSIDE the CITY”
lies a dark acre of nameless tombstones
a sweet & sacrilegious monument to judaism
consecrated in 1656
cornered by brick
& bridged by steel & clay
the ashes of ashesthe dust of duston this cold & dismal ash wednesday.
a triangle of empty benches
the prickly wild berry trees
lining the black wrought iron
spear-tipped gate
some secret inside the tombs
the vacant geometric forms
so worn & finalresting “en un espacio pequeno y solemne
para Shearith Israel”
a remnant of a prayer for the souls
of the wandering dead
who now repose
in god’s new world.

steve dalachinsky nyc 3/4/81=20

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.