History of a Page
I grew up in snow country, where my best
friend was, after my cat, a certain oak.
Broad-shouldered as a varsity upperclassman,
he gave rides to many of us at once.
But he didn't look like an oak for a whole year.
In summer he stood symmetrical, supportive, flush
with green life--almost virile, the kind of creature
you might choose for a friend, but would have you for one
whether you wanted him or not, or wouldn't care. He took
all the kicks and stomps we doled out, and didn't mind.
Lolling, we could be quiet, in his arms,
whatever the fracas below.
But he turned into a barren frail thing come winter,
shivering and naked so that even when the paths
were not snow-laden, I'd walk around his woods
so as not to embarrass him in his senescence.
But I'd come right back to him each spring, dependable
as--spring, and tell him all the news of what
had happened to me over the winter (which was never much,
since it was winter) and ask him, How are you?
Now as I write, I have learned that our woods
have been chopped down by the paper mills.
And as I hold this leaf, white, cool, and open,
I feel that oak gripped gladly in my hands.
James B. Nicola follows poets Frank O'Hara and Stanley Kunitz and humorist Robert Benchley with his first collection of poetry, Manhattan Plaza, as a New York author originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. His second collection, Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater, will be out in 2016. James has been widely published in periodicals including Kind of a Hurricane Press (several times), Rattle, and The Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, and has won several poetry awards.