Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 1
James B. Nicola
It's neither déjà vu, nor, quite, a dream.
Their number is the same, only their faces,
the few that I can see, aren't what they seem,
not human beings, really, but the traces
of sandlots where my home-run saved the day,
now tamed in asphalt for a mini-mall;
of side yards where we used to play croquet,
the yard too narrow now, the grass too tall
for play. A plastic sign covers the old
bank's name, deep-chiseled in the crumbly lime.
Inside, teenagers, part-timers, refold
bright shirts with care, to try on one more time.
The traffic does not slow around the square
but, breathing only air-conditioned air,
goes windows up, as in an armored car,
dark-spectacled. I can't see who they are
and close my eyes. In a flash, everyone
is back, and tramps the lawn, and scales the stone
for Joe to chase us off, always in fun,
and benches fill with souls as they did when
I lived here. When I open them again,
I'm back, adult, alive, alert, alone.
When you begin to count
the number of days left
does that make you an adult,
or does it make you, shudder, an old person
all of a sudden?
If it happens when you’re still a child,
does that mean you’re
too serious and wise
for your own good,
too disciplined and industrious
to have any friends?
Or can you still find time to waste
in fits and starts, hours here, weekends there,
desperate vacations out of town on a lake?
And if you never do come to
the moment of realizing how little time
is left, does that make you ignorant
like an animal or prehistoric primate,
or a mystic,
wiser than counting
can account for?
I know I counted one day,
though I don’t remember when.
Since then I’ve been so busy
I’ve had no time to count again.
The pile of pages waiting getting few, © James B. Nicola
the stack already vetted growing thick,
you lick your finger, flipping through too quick,
then linger at the page in front of you.
The zeal has sealed the left: it’s past and gone,
rereading disallowed. The right is all
that’s left. With some maturity you stall
more wisely. Still, the black lines lead you on.
Now dog-eared, unglued, coming half-unbound,
it settles like a poem or a friend.
And with a recent vigor you have found
scenarios surprising near the end,
the circumstances blind. The final page is
inscrutable, unnumbered as our age is.
© James B. Nicola