James B. Nicola

James B. Nicola’s poetry and prose have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest, Green Mountains, and Atlanta Reviews; Barrow Street; and Honeyguide, garnering a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, eight Pushcart Prize nominations, and one Best of the Net nom. His full-length poetry collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019), and Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense (2021). His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice magazine award. sites.google.com/view/james-b-nicola


Turns & Twists Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond

Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense

Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists

Wind in the Cave


Over the years I’ve filled a treasure chest
with trials and trinkets—loved ones, if you please,
as literatures and sociologies—
and sift through them, to learn. And learn. At least
I have archived the rhinestone memories
as prisms of how foolish hearts persist.

Lately I’ve scoured all my experience
and haven’t been able to find one text
to help. Perhaps my archive’s been indexed
improperly, or You’ve brought innocence
back, so my only possible reference
is not to what has been, but what is next.


When you close off your email with a word
Like Cheers instead of something personal
My face falls from my skin onto my lap.

Defining Soul

Let’s say Soul is the part of you not here,
the part of you that’s everywhere and always—
beyond, at least—or that Soul is the part
of you that’s not your person.

Or this: When
I think of you the air is warm and velvet,
the mattress, plush, and I wake up refreshed
and know I’ve dreamt of you; when I don’t dream
of you I sleep on stone! So you do do
even when not here. The part of you
that does that, makes a difference in your absence—
and you do that a lot—let’s call that Soul.

Do souls have hands? If so, your two lace mine.
Do souls have hearts? If so, our two make one.
And feet? Ours flex and tickle 24/7.
Lungs? Yes—and breaths merge, just as when we kissed
the first time, and I learned that there was Soul.