Avatars

James B. Nicola


                                                                                I could come to believe almost anything,
                                                                                     even my soul, which is my unlit cigar
                                                                                                                       —Philip Levine

 

The Holy Spirit visits, dove and fireball:

     an air-born thing of hope, peace, purit
     that swoops and lights on a park bench next to you
     some ratty, urban, cantankerous, dirty day;

     that inner and outer thing that can,
     to infinity, self-multiply                                                                                                                       
     if applied to another wick (in wax or oleaginous flesh
     or stick (with tatters or stripped of polite affections)
     that's not too
     boggy to receive

                                                               *

Your soul is a thing in your pocket
a stiff-soft shaft awaiting to be bit
and puffed into agnition like a primitive god

but first to be doled about that fumes be shared
to fill the room the world with the cured aroma
of Cuban fields rapt in Connecticut,
smiles, slaps on the bum, hearted congratulations

Pat just above your lungs to the left and right
breathe deeply
and should you feel or imagine
lumps, rowed and upright in your blazer pocket (or
where the pocket would be were you dressed)

then you too, friend, have secrets yet to cull,
cure, roll, wrap, seal, attend until their day

their purpose only consummated when
the mild explosion's called for, and they set
your salon afire awhile as prized things
sipswirled like some smooth double-smoked intoxicant
in your comrades' mouths and brains, and those of strangers
who partake of the ardent even as they go

each like a Flameball visitation hung
over the sacred citizens of oils:
     their flames, your fire;
     their punks, your progeny

And this smoke, even when it's long consumed,
shall have filtered through and infiltrated realms
where the future stands, rowed, wrought to do the same
and once in a while waft high enough to reach
the realm of doves, the very source of fire


James B. Nicola's poems have appeared stateside in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, Tar River, and Poetry East, and in many journals in Europe and Canada. A Yale graduate, he won a Dana Literary Award, a Willow Review award, and a People's Choice award (from Storyteller), and he was featured poet at New Formalist. His nonfiction book, Playing the Audience, won a Choice award. His poetry collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), and the upcoming Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018).

Lately James has been conducting both theater and poetry workshops at libraries, literary festivals, schools, and community centers all over the country, most notably the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival.

James is also a director, composer, lyricist, and playwright. His children’s musical Chimes: A Christmas Vaudeville premiered in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Santa Claus was rumored to be in the audience on opening night.