“Have You Ever Woken” by James B. Nicola

James B. Nicola


Have you ever woken up, after a loss,
and gone outside, and found there such a mist
of morning—of mourning—that you thought you
were somewhere else, that the loss wasn’t lost,

and then you heard a voice from far away
whisper your name, then, vocative, pierce through
the mist and guide you back to what you knew
once, where you were, how things had been? You toss

left, toss right, and wake up again, only
to find there is no mist, no voice, no day,
there is no Is, because there is no We
anymore? You have? I have too, and say

I’m your friend, even if we’ve never met,
here to help you forget, and not forget.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016

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James B. Nicola: “I majored in music at Yale, concentrating on songwriting, but after graduation developed a career as a stage director. Twenty years later, I directed at Yale—but since I was not a student, I didn’t have a key to all the practice rooms or common rooms where pianos were beckoning. It was unbearable to be in New Haven, where I had written music and lyrics daily for years, without access to a piano—and out came lyric poetry. I remember my first verse, a sonnet, in October 2000. And I’ve been writing (or rewriting) poetry every day since. What started as a wonderful discipline for a stage director, though, has turned into a way of living and looking at the world; the time spent undisturbed, focusing inward while expanding outward, has become a spiritual ritual I don’t believe I could do without.”

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