James B. Nicola

Please Don't

Please don’t tell me Columbus discovered America;
there were persons here, still overlooked.

Please don’t say a policeman is my friend;
there were persons here, who overlooked.

Please don’t think Britain a democracy;
there were persons there, long overlooked.

Please don’t ask me to go back to Church;
there’s a preacher there, looking over.

On “ethnic cleansing”

If the Zeitgeist's alcoholic
who shall abstain
but the occasional poet
who likes his elixirs to taste
of wines and beers and spirit,
not guns and bombs and blood;
who'll not capitulate to bitter folly,
facilitate pernicious, unmarked diction,
or conciliate with innocuous daily drumming?

The journalist may—and has, that perennial enabler.

Hear him on the bristly radio and on the puffed-out TV screen
where high-definition picture's the husk
of misdefinition of sound-without-end-amen.

But only wince at what you abhor
lest you be abhorred for championing
the paltriest of causes—

Right Words for Right Thoughts,

Namely, this:

Let us not call a holocaust a cleansing,
nor humor those who do without a cry—

Yet be wise enough, or waif enough, to know
that all we can do about it is to write

That our shard be stumbled upon, one smoky day,
in a whistling wind, by a teary, weary survivor
who'll wonder what all the Cleansing Times were for.

James B. Nicola © 2017


Let nations fight like gentry—shiny knights
at tournaments where ladies still wore silk
and horns were blown to signal starts of fights.
If men have at it, let their kings proceed
in pairs, Harry to Harry, elk to elk.

And let no mortal make the ladies bleed
nor tear each others’ hairs out: let them be bred
like countesses and queens that tears be shed,
not blood. And by the stands of flags and cheers
let victors be decided, and their jeers
injure by shame sharper than violence.

And if a statewide conflict must ensue,
let those knights go, the rich, not me—not you!

But chivalry is slain: No modern prince
dare demonstrate deportment at the lists.
And millionaires are never sent to war,
only the millions, and the women too,
sans knights, sans lords, sans courtly chauvinists,
in numbers unimaginable before.


Why did the Johnsons or the Curads ever
think to make their strips the color
of skin (well, Caucasian skin)?
I'd think a wound would better heal
if sealed in a bright, garish, opposite hue,
purple, green, heliotrope, or blue
so passersby might see that you’d been wounded, and where,
and refrain from grabbing and squeezing or slapping or scratching you there.

And as goes the flesh, so goes the spirit,
so goes the heart: If only we could
affix a flagrant and gaudy bandage
where we’ve bled and grown scabs, not so that
one might bring up the dark topic of how
the wound happened, but so that, without a word,
we might re-immerse in a world of people,
friends and strangers, and not worry so much
about being unintentionally slapped or scratched
in the unreal felt place deep within,
right where—. . . Well, haven’t you lived this yourself?
Haven’t you had to leave a room, suddenly,
when no one had the least of idea of why?

Some gashes like that, hueless and invisible,
seem to bleed and bleed, never stopping,
and get deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper
and deeper and deeper and deeper.

James B. Nicola © 2017