Arizona by James B. Nicola


James B. Nicola

You remember how suddenly it started to snow
as we reached the end of our walk to the bottom
of the Canyon so we hiked back up, drove off,
sought higher ground and pitched camp
beyond the snow?

The first shooting star I saw,
right after we’d said good night,
kept me watching for another and another.

The hard step of some arrant beast
approaching to inspect us broke
the gently winded silence. All
our foodstuffs sealed, it gave a sort of a snort
then hulked along, thank goodness.

In the stillness
I thrilled to be still

It was many a twinkle and blink before
I fell asleep, when that same night
like a gentle mother bear nuzzling her cubs—
I dreamt, half-awake, as I lived the simile—
stuck her keen nose in by the sleeping bag,
as if tickling me—did she tickle you too?—
with fragrant sprigs of dusty, fresh-picked sage.

I rubbed my cheek and my hands were paws,
my nose a muzzle, moist as dew
as sure as I am here with you,
even if you’re only reading me,
or hearing.

I flexed, excited by the breeze
of sweet and clean, and stretched then plopped
out of the bag, almost human. Sausage smells
from the Coleman stove, the makeshift Joe—
I was the last of us to wake—
helped grease my knees and find my feet.
You can imagine I didn’t mind the aches
that dawn, nor coarse brushy grist in my toes,
nor the coffee a little too hot and burnt.
It all seemed good, and it felt as if
the whiteness oozing from the horizon
to the feeling mind had been all along—
as I’d been watching the shooting sky—
watching over you and me.

* * *

That Arizona was years ago.
What’s happened since then? Nothing, I suppose.
I’ve gone on in the east, and you in the west.
You’ve lost your job, and I’ve barely worked in years.

But when I look even through a mist I know
that beyond, a particle-orb takes off,
races and catches fire for us,
which we might not see but I cannot help but feel;

and past our outskirts are thrilling beasts
eager to inspect and raid the night;

and that when you reach a bottom of sorts
it might suddenly, even in a desert, decide
to snow.

About the Author

James B. Nicola’s poems have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, and six times in Lowestoft Chronicle. His four poetry collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), and Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018). James’s nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His poetry has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, a People’s Choice award from Storyteller, and four Pushcart Prize nominations—from Shot Glass Journal, Parody, and twice from Trinacria—for which he feels both stunned and grateful. jamesbnicola.