Falling Short

I saw everyone, having fallen short,

on the ground. At last I joined Everyone,

their force being much, and greeted the ground

     too. It’s comfortable there. Here. We

     have gimmicks to prolong the comfort.

     But whose voice have I just heard? Yours? Have

     you whispered * . . . get up . . . * ? The voice is faint,

     but not intentionally whispering.

     Shouting, but from afar? No, that’s not

     it, either. Close by, but shouting from

     beneath the horde, muffled?! Either you’re

     desperate, or a fool. The horde’s safe,

     sir!  . . . Ma’am? You’re trying to fool me, then,

     that you are not human. You’re a spirit? . . .

     A poet, then!  . . . Same difference? That

     may be. I recall being a poet.

     Or wanting to be, some day, maybe.

     Trying, thinking, caring, wanting The

     World to get up. How I would shout. Trying

     to be heard. Ball players did get up.

     Long jumpers, too, and the like, heard me

     and got up. But that’s their job, to jump

     up, play again. They’re paid to get up!

     But nobody else heard and got up,

     as I hear you. Is my name Nobody

     now, the poet worse than dead, as I

     am, fallen in with Everyone now?

     Yes, I am no longer what I am.

     Knowing I should shout, but saying No

     to shouting. Hearing, seeing, no-ing.

     No wings! Yet I feel your flutter, hear:

     * . . . get up . . . get up! . . . * and answer, still, * Noooooo! *

     I like the comfort, and get on well,

     lying, one among the crowd. We like

     our eyes closed, ears blocked, lying all day—

     above all, our inalienable

     right to make you mute, Poet above

     us all, to muzzle you. So shout! Write:

     The best is less than any of us,

when unheard! One day you’ll agree: It’s best

to fall in line, belong among. You’ll see—

shortly, Poet, after the coming fall. . . .

James B. Nicola

James B. Nicola’s poetry has garnered two Willow Review awards, a Dana Literary award, seven Pushcart nominations, and one Best of the Net nom. His full-length collections include Manhattan Plaza, Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater, 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). A Yale grad, he also has enjoyed a career as a stage director, culminating in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choiceaward.

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