Three Poems by James B. Nicola

Tetradic Sequence from Below and Above, Before and After

blocked ears, closed minds, rage;
wisdom falls as late fall’s leaves:
heroes’ tragedies


finch pecks by window 
February slows him down
warm inside. poor bird 


after the last blast
all the leaves curled, browned, crisped, drooped
obsolete as arms


gone. but where you were
smolders still invisibly
Desire’s steam echoes


Making mocha icing     with my mom
I learned the word Mixmaster® too that day
Mocha chip ice cream cone     with my dad
I learned the word pistachio that day

Greenwich Village Autumn ’76
Trolling ’round to park snug on a street
Café Figaro’s sour sawdust floor
I learned the word mochaccino that day
Halloween weekend     Semester break
I was a freshman green as pistachio 
I caught my first sight of a transvestite
Who happened to have gleaming mocha skin
And learned the two-word phrase in drag that night


I’ve just ordered a hot and trendy drink
With yet another new word for a name
Those five letters are at the core of it
However so I picked it from the board 
Of this prefabricated place with floors
Of fakewood plastic obviating sawdust

The stacks of cups are plastic or cardboard
I see no porcelain nor any saucers
For underneath but contrariwise lids

The customers’ assembly line is squeezed 
As if through a funnel I cannot see
I study all the words some half-Italian
Up on the board but there are far too many
I fear for me to recall even one

I’ve learned the word neologism today
How old things will combine to create new
Products     people     neighborhoods     worlds    you


We sit and with the first sip     up     flood     ghosts

The day that I discovered Pinecroft Dairy
And cones that cost a quarter I’m not kidding

A purring whirring gleaming Mixmaster®
And fingers dipped in frosting promptly licked

And parents who kept introducing me
To mixed things and myself along the way
Exotic as an inkling or a dream
And friends who showed me night-life once risqué
But only flavorful as any memory
Of mocha on a desultory day

It’s still my favorite flavor of ice cream

The Order of Things

teach our children
that should they

to murder
or someones
and then

they might
start with
the suicide

and save
a life
or two
or five

or ten.

James B. Nicola’s poems have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews; Rattle; and Barrow Street. His seven full-length collections (2014-22) are Manhattan PlazaStage to PageWind in the CaveOut of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists, QuickeningFires of Heaven, and Turns & Twists. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His poetry and prose have received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller’s People’s Choice award, one Best of Net, one Rhysling, and ten Pushcart nominations—for which he feels both stunned and grateful. A graduate of Yale, he hosts the Hell’s Kitchen International Writers’ Round Table at his library branch in Manhattan: walk-ins welcome.