Waxing Nautical

James B. Nicola

There’s a sea to me
     miles, fathoms, mains, bays,
          and I would be free

               but am as I am
                    only when I am

                         chained at a bottom of The Great
                              where it is
                                   too deep for a drop of sun to reach

                                        though this Prison below
                                             is so
                                                  well
                                                       lit.

All I can do is lie,
     removed,
          moved and unmoved,
               seduce, sip, swallow and, sadly, slay,
                    add to a collection of what salt tears,
                         currents, creatures, and time dissolve
                              to swill,
                                   egest as ambergris.

Another vessel has embarked; another’s lit ashore to safety.
     And I cheer for both:
          The one, wish Godspeed, clap, and pray
               for a better experienced life away
                    from me

                         for having sailed upon salt seas
                              awhile;

          The other, beckon,

               now that I rage, hungry,
                    with my mask of stillness,
                         reflective and reflecting
                              on the surface
                                   with an illusory, projecting
                                        sheen of day and firmament
                                             for anyone on board who might
                                                  wish to ponder,

While underneath, the darkest realm of tombs
     summons night, and never likes to lose.

My lungs, heart and stomach, rapacious, beat a rote hypnotic, in sync with the moon and stars, that you would once lean over the gunwales to inquire just too far

And that I might hook and pull you, with a jerk down, to become a glistening pebble in time

at the gastric, elastic
     bottom of
          the Prison

where we would dance
     and make salt worlds
          a Prism.


About the Author

James B. Nicola, a returning contributor, is the author of six collections of poetry: Manhattan Plaza, Stage to Page, Wind in the Cave, Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists, Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019), and Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense (2021). His theater career culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award.