Sunday 5 November 2017

4 Poems and 6 Haiku by James B. Nicola


Hot mustard, soy and duck sauce stains
on off-white cartons start to reek.
We’ve ordered in, for Thursday’s gains
     must make up for the week.

Management’s picked up the bill
so everyone can work straight through.
Friday at five, or quarter till,
     the week of work is due.

If one dropped in on Thursday one
would think we were a den of slobs.
But we won’t stop till we get it done—
     or get other jobs.

Humor of an Age

I told an old friend an old joke, to no applause,
no snort, no snicker: only a courteous turning
to face me, a half-smile. And in the pause,
an ash long embered, on the verge of burning.

(I used to see it in your eyes
—but was it you?—right before
the moment you would recognize
my tale as humorous and roar
with the unbridled laughter
of childhood. You recall?
No rudeness between friends. After
that rambunctious phase, a veil of cool

descended, which a soul might misconstrue
for darkness. But the adolescent dark
could not extinguish the embers in you,
and every now and then I saw a spark
wanting to ignite.
So I kept on joking,
trying to free the fiery light.

Then you started smoking
and instead of laughing, or appearing to listen,
you would simply nod, or shake your head, and puff.
But even containing, you seemed to glisten;
as if the coals within you never got enough.

The decades subsequent, what you became
was hardly recognizable: proper,
polite; our conversation turning tame,
neither of us a ghost of who we were.
It was nobody’s fault.
It’s how life was, and is,
when you’re an adult
and in business.

And now:)  “Congratulations! Truth told, I doubt-
ed you would ever get the business sold.
So do you want to hear the one about—”
(But are you—you? Or have we grown too old?)

I told my friend the joke, to no applause,
no snort, no snicker: only a courteous turning
to face me, a half-smile. And in the pause,
an ash long embered, on the verge of burning.

A Moment from Now

One stands
 at the door
  of a moment from now

   and can only
    go through.
Of course

 when the room
  appears dark
   One listens

    and hearing a sweet air,
     breathing it in,
      makes the essential easier:

       to stand
        at the door
         and go through

          that One

             But even
              if We hear

                even if We see
                 but darkness
                  even if We hear

                   but silence or see
                     or oblivion

We stand
 at the door
  of a Moment from Now

   and can only
    go through
of course.

[end of poem]


How bold you rant
And brave you act
How fast you play
How loud you talk
Because you can’t
Deny the fact
Of—Let’s just say
The Ticking Clock.

So we are but
The same, you see,
Both more than what
You thought of me
Or, if that’s not
Precisely true
Both less than what
I thought of you.

6 haiku, 1 with title

cone. sprig. pine. lumber
stripped, nailed for a span of use.
bench among the cones

* * *

I’ll turn the last leaf
of this book like the autumn
to wait for the next

* * *

midnight—smells ’n’ sounds
daylight—added sights abound
till they trickle down

* * *

noon glare’s glad, invites;
afternoon’s exhilarates;
evening’s, muted, calms

* * *

whimsy looks back on
inaccurate remembrance
seeding the future

* * *

winter thermostat

     getting on in years
I tend to burn a candle
     in the evening hours


James B. Nicola's poems have appeared in Poetry Pacific, the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, and Poetry East. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016).

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