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


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