Sample Poems by James B. Nicola
open and close-
A tight, hard regiment of even lines and planes
in gray, brown, taupe, khaki, variegated uniforms,
their suits trimly tapered by their tallness and perspective,
stands at attention, staid, impressive-overwhelming.
I, citizen, gelatinous, am toppled upside-down:
looking up, that is, I feel I'm standing on my head,
while they seem to hang, to cling, as desperate as I,
like icicles from roofs or the eaves of the sky,
though stoney-cast to last through the season.
By casting shade, the newer growths, nearer the rivers,
turn older scrapers, sandwiched in between,
to stalactites or stalagmites, depending on your view.
The lucid mind can reason that they're not,
but to topsy-turvy'd eyes, the military city
swirls while it stands frozen as a cave.
The darkness cast below falls on those within-
and without-the sunglassed skyscraping troops
whose blackened glass hides eight million souls
from as many others in all weathers.
You and I walk in their midst,
inverted, attentive, glistening-
melting, yet likewise shell-contained,
analogous anomalies of creatures caught in caves,
captive even while captivating:
person after person,
building after building,
street after street,
season after season.
Another One about a Shoulder and a Shower
If you show me another one about
a shoulder and a shower, you had
better look out. Shoulder and shower
as poem topics? For cryin' out loud,
there've been so many poems about
them already, haven't there-and in
The New Yorker! You've seen them, and choke
on them, but keep reading The New Yorker
to see the company they're keeping
lately, only to open and see
another published in the latest
issue, by the very publisher
who scribbled in the margin, right by
your perfect sonnet, not knowing who
you were, conceding your smart use
of and agility with form were
admirable. Had I written of
the dripping shoulder, having just had
a shower, and the way its dripping
were honored in the moment the shower
went off, I'd have been the one honored
now by The New Yorker. Only I'd
never bare your shoulder for The New
Yorker or any other rag, for your
shoulder's sacred to me. But another's,
or just the idea of Shoulder
emerging from Shower, soaked, or just
moist, as the Nude right now emerges,
firing invention even as
I watch, or rather as I invent
a scenario wherein I watch-
that is the sort of scenario
a New Yorker should hear. Therefore that's
what I've gone on about. For you, New Yorker.
Turning the Corner
There never is an end. Each city street
you go down joins another, and there is
a chance, depending on the turn, you'll meet
your future. There's romance, there's business,
inconsequence or ignorance, and yet
always a view that you pass by or through.
The question: will you traffic to forget,
or to experience the turn, the new?
A danger may await beyond the forks
as well. But whether going fast to spend
more time there, or slow to enjoy the way
you get there, navigating in New York's
a myriad-fingered passage, each street's end
another to begin; each day's, a day.
A number goes up. 102.
You want to rip a throat out. What stops you?
103 in Newark,
104, New York.
The poor perspire. The civilized turn on
appliances until the heat is gone
and air is dry. Since air's not subsidized
the ghetto gasps and boils. The civilized
state wages war for far-off fields of fuel
to keep its winters warm and summers cool,
the civilized society productive,
and heat waves, only distantly destructive.