Perry S. Nicholas
I am an English Professor at SUNY at Erie in Buffalo, N.Y. I have published one textbook of poetry prompts, three full-length books of poetry, and five chapbooks of original poetry. Please see my work at perrynicholas.com. I also love bird watching and love travelling to read my poetry. I will be reading in Schenectady, Albany, and New Paltz in August, or anywhere else I am invited. For more information please visit my website: www.perrynicholas.com
This is a very recent poem expressing loss from an aging bird watcher. Appropriate because my 66th birthday is on March 1.
WHERE DID THEY GO?
Another new year, and I’ll try
not to sound trite, but where did
the birds go in the interval between
Thanksgiving and the winter solstice?
We loved our home, so why
didn’t they, or were they confused
by shifts back and forth--
sometimes harsh, sometimes mild?
Unlike you, I don’t need to justify
my perch in the world, only once
more take note of their patterns,
remember their sounds to imitate.
After you left, the birds stayed away,
and I became colorless and old. Chirp, chirp.
A poem from 2010 about mothers, taking care of elderly parents, becoming old oneself. It came from a writing prompt for my students. They were asked to take a small object and create a bigger story.
THE PILL SORTER
You never thought you’d be the kind of person
who uses a pill sorter. A plastic blue one, at that.
A calendar of the heart snapping each day shut.
The exact one you filled for your mother,
with big, legible letters since she couldn’t
keep track of much except that her show
appeared before her weekdays at 3.
She was to take them immediately after
General Hospital. One square per episode.
You never believed you’d be that kind of person,
not after conquering Europe and sleeping
on the ground, surviving that storm on a ferry,
taking the Spanish steps two at a time, training
fifteen rounds in a smelly, airtight gym, then
carting your two-year-old daughter across Toronto.
And all that Greek dancing. That glorious,
spontaneous drinking and laughter.
So when they took all of her pills away
and your mother fingered the empty combs,
you pocketed the seven silent hives,
held her hand tight, encouraged her to focus
on anything other than the missing
snap sound and helped her step
over the line into madness, though
she was already halfway there.
You never thought you’d be like that, did you,
the kind of person who uses a pill sorter?
Labelled reminders in a relentless row.
S is for Sunday. No General Hospital today.
Start at the left. Unsnap another week.
Aura is an older poem of mine. My father was a painting contractor, and I often remember the smells that surrounded him.
Everything smelled of paint thinner,
to some degree, around my father
and our house. A foreign perfume,
or a man’s spicy cologne.
It circulated down the driveway
from the beds of tired work trucks
to the can-full garage, through the yard,
never empty enough to play in.
There was a lone lilac bush
just on the other side of our fence,
begging me to breathe in her fragrance
every morning, but instead, I rose
before the others to inhale my father
as he loaded paint on the pickup
with one hand, pulled lovingly
on his non-filters with the other.
Cigarettes, paint fumes, and stale whiskey--
an intoxicating concoction of scents.
They followed him day and night,
and I respected his aura of thinner.
It hung everywhere in the air,
just as a father’s force lingers
forever heavy in a man’s life.
Strange how our jobs seep out
of us unnoticed, undetected
except to those who need us.
I wonder if I smell of lead pencils,
new paper, coffee, and chalk.
©2019 Perry S. Nicholas
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF