James B. Nicola
If left to its own nature, a propensity
might turn to ardor, passion, frenzy, blow
away like a child's helium balloon,
bright, free, diminishing, but visible

above. You tethered certain cravings,
but with an expandable leash, let them go
off as if by themselves, in the breeze, and high.
Then, one tug, or a few, and they were back—to hold,

exchange or re-inflate, relaunch or pop.
Advisers told you to pull down and guard
those Mylar® colors, chest them at your heart!
You turned into a six-year-old and laughed

proud of the shiny silver laced with red
bobbing in the sky for all to see.
You never saw the sense in hiding gifts.
Once, when you almost lost one in a storm,

you changed its string for cord, then sturdy rope
which dragged the air ball down—but you found this
a small price. Lately, though, recalling shrinkage
in past balloons, you’ve changed your mind, and at

the risk of looking like a fool, you tie
with even lighter twine and let a wind
slice each one free so it can fly away—
even from yourself—as high as the sky will allow.

Well you, my friend, my onetime reader, you
are my balloon. I lost you in a storm;
you soared beyond the rain. My only dream:
that you shall find a way back down again.

James B. Nicola's

poems have appeared in riverbabble, the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, Tar 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; was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Rhysling Award; and was 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). Coming up: Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (Shanti Arts)—with pictures!

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