James B. Nicola

The Sheath

At last he has the time to think about

to whom it had belonged, and what it held,

before it came to him, and then his wife.

He’d given it to her happily when she

admired it, once. In it she kept her emery

board. Before that, his slide rule. Before that,

who knows? A nacre-handled letter-knife?

A pair of manicure scissors? A pocket

level for a carpenter? Who cares?

He does, today, and wonders, as it sits

empty, high on his hutch, as on a throne,

a senile emperor, fine leather lined

with time, once-brilliant beading fading, but

if not enjoying the sinecure of

retirement, quiet about it, and calm.

Twilight is the Meetest

time for desultory assignations

like poetry, where the question of which

came first, chicken or egg, falls, superseded

by this response: that from every day springs forth

the dark, as from night, light. Which is both birth

and surrender, give and take, at once. Although

the western, younger faiths trump living in

the present, as the eastern override

fear of the Last and wonder on the First,

poetry's spun in that faith where You Are

left-right in the moment, aware enough

of swallowing nights and half-digested days—

and vice versa—to make the piquancy

a sweaty-sweet unbearable rash, a near-bursting

dread to cherish and sigh for with one pen

as brush, chisel, polishing cloth, scimitar, and olive branch

brandished upward toward the winking eye,

out and down to the world, and you, for ever.

James B. Nicola © 2014