I used to be politer, but more boring,
my friends say. They could take me anywhere.
My conversation wasn’t overbearing.
My actions seemed as if I didn’t care

more than was apt. Now I appear half-crazy,
they tell me, and act drunk before I drink.
I babble, slur my sentences, feel dizzy,
and talk, invariably, before I think.

One friend (a doctor) says there are diseases
with hidden symptoms, like a certain flu
the victim of which neither coughs nor sneezes,
runs temperatures, nor shakes with an ague.
—What invisible ailment are you speaking of?
—How horrible! —And what are we to do?,
My friends pipe. But the doctor knows—it’s love—
yes, even though he still has not met you!

So, till you come, my cohorts’ condemnations
continue. Till then, though, I’d rather be
the crudest sufferer of complications
than courteous, and die of atrophy.


James B. Nicola’s nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016). He won a Dana Literary Award, a People’s Choice award (from Storyteller) and a Willow Review award; was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Rhysling Award; and was featured poet at New Formalist. A Yale graduate as well as a composer, lyricist, and playwright, James has been giving both theater and poetry workshops at libraries, literary festivals, schools, and community centers all over the country. His children’s musical Chimes: A Christmas Vaudeville premiered in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Santa Claus was rumored to be in attendance on opening night. 

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10 Responses

  1. Amy Foreman

    The invisible ailment, love . . . how sweet! I really enjoyed this poem, James!

  2. Fr. Richard Libby

    This poem is well written and whimsical. Congratulations, Mr. Nicola!

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Sounds almost like Lyme Disease to me, but please, by God, continue to speak (or write) your mind. And I appreciate your punctilio when it comes to the finer points of formal craft.

  4. Kafilah Sulaimon


    I want to open my hijab,
    and show the world,
    …that I too,
    am beautiful in the people’s definition.
    But, deep down here,
    in my huge heart,
    I know that beauty is by definition, a mystery.
    And it is forever more rewarding,
    to be beautiful in God’s eyes.

    I want to wear ruffled dressed and tight jeans,
    show off what I really look like,
    under those baggy shirts and loosely fitted pants,
    make a statement,
    that I too,
    have a figure and worth looking at.
    But, I know better,
    to avoid entering the world of men’s imagination,
    for I love my future husband,
    and I am ashamed,
    what should be his, has already been unveiled by others.

    I want to show the world,
    the other side of me,
    in the raw, buff and crazier me.
    Put myself on display,
    for everyone to see,
    to be desired and admired upon.
    But, I know that eyes are not just eyes,
    seeing is not just seeing,
    Image and respect are gained,
    Shame and humility deserve a better place.
    I too wear beauty.


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