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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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At Leo's Used the shelves invite you to

a trip to limbo, full of the unknown,

the long forgotten, lying still in wait.

There, senseless things have overstuffed the rear

with mysteries. In front, strewn curlicues

and rose designs, dyed glassware. On one wall

lean jonquil-dappled mattresses on blocks.

Adjacent, dust collects on sleeves and jackets,

the tomes and records redolent with sweat.

From time to time a props man from the local

theater sifts through. And from time to time

a bargain fiend from out of town who doesn’t

buy and will not come again: The bargains

to be had at Leo’s Used stay hidden.


Next door, the Rescue League seems to enjoy

more frequent turnovers, but not all glad

outcomes. The puppies there, as if they knew,

yelp so that you will hear them from the road

and wince. If you go in, you watch awhile

with gross awareness. There’s a mirror on

the wall in the kennel so you can comb

your hair before you introduce yourself.

If you catch it sideways, the angles make

you seem surrounded by the banks of cages

and the image, until you focus, will look like

you too are in a cage. But if that happens,

you only need remind yourself you’re not.


Beyond, the mall beckons occasional shoppers

to a contemporary limbo. Most

things will not be bought there, either. The young

and celibate have dusted themselves off

for the parade of flourishy designs,

jacket conceits, and droopy eyes, and wag

their tails, too, yelping, aching to escape.

In the mall there are mirrors everywhere.


But I’m at Leo’s Used, atingle from

the cornucopia, still browsing in

a passion for the clever coffeepot,

the painted cover of a paperback,

the mirror whose frame’s far more than the mirror,

the thing unneeded that’s magnificent.

My sneezes in the dust are syncopated

by yelps from strays piercing the world next door.

In the end, though, I buy nothing, and today

do not drop by the Rescue League, but leave

Leo’s, and everything, remarked and uncollected.


—James B. Nicola



The Eyes of an Artist

You do not sleep. Your artists’ eyes

make clouds and snow appear not white

but tertiary yellow-grays,

mauves, violets. . . . Suns that set and rise,

you must not miss, but hold your brush

prepared to stroke the subtle light

of compound hues at ends of days.

Even the glassware makes you gush

with all that it reflects upon.

What fairy wakens before Man

to dapple night with dewy dawn—

you wake up even earlier than,

as cursed as you are blest with awe

for all things, and insomnia.

                                     —James B. Nicola

I didn't mind


I didn't mind it when you called me Dirt,

for dirt is soil (my bed is rich and soft)

and tears are seeds. (Come, show me where you hurt.)


The first time, we were teen-aged. Green. I flirt-

ed back. You didn't notice. I was daft

and didn't mind much if you thought me dirt


(which in a way I was). How you avert-

ed every glance, then. But, though Art and Craft

turn tears to seeds, the planting ought to hurt,


some, no? (“No pain, no gain.”) So every curt

retort of yours, I noted as I laughed,

but didn't mind, much, learning to sling dirt


back, while you learned to take it like a sport.

Till now. The “Great Love of your Life” has left.

What tears! (What seeds!) But you would never hurt


this much, you crowed, once, didn't you, My Heart?

Yes—that is how I've thought of you. How oft-

en? Always, since that day you called me Dirt.

Such tears are seeds. Come. Show me where you hurt.

                                                             —James B. Nicola