Mt. Gretna by James B. Nicola

Mt. Gretna

James B. Nicola

This is the hour when even death should sleep
and not send wingèd legions to commit
anonymous atrocities like murder.
Fly off, you emissaries of despair,
I cried. Then they prodded me out of bed
to rummage through my travel sundries for
the ear plugs I was sure I stashed somewhere.

I took this cabin in the woods to be
engirded by a green tranquility
but almost damning the tweets and chirps
I succumbed and stuffed my ears. A muffle
persisted even through the wax, foam and glue
but they helped. I’ve kept the cold things in
and enjoyed a nightly respite from the country din.
Last night I clicked the lamp off, dizzy in the dark,
took three dire breaths and descended to the depths—

Now what’s that murmur swelling from afar,
that clank? It comes, it stops, fires up and whirrs
then clanks again, piercing through the glue
and foam in my ears. Finally in view—
the village sanitation truck?! No cabs
to yell at, I go out and curse myself
to drown out the birds and the truck combined
and it’s not even dawn, I’m wide awake and wet
with adrenalin and sweat, and hoarse. When the stinker’s gone
there’s no point in keeping the ear plugs in
or even lying down so I succumb and, numb, I
listen to the cacophony of bird-infested trees
surrounding me. When from a distance I hear
a rooster announce the day, I think
that even he, compared to the garbage
truck, sounds sweet.

About the Author

James B. Nicola’s poems have appeared three times in Lowestoft Chronicle, as well as in the AntiochSouthwest and Atlanta ReviewsRattleTar River, and Poetry East. A Yale grad, he won a Dana Literary Award, a People’s Choice award (from Storyteller) and a Willow Review award; he was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Rhysling Award; and he wasa featured poet at New Formalist. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. James’s two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016). Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists is forthcoming from Shanti Arts. More at: