House of Self
I couldn’t see it from the street
but from inside her flames were bright
and blinding, though they spread too slow
to warrant an emergency
in the house where only she
abided, or could even go.
A matted coolness calmed the heat,
however, and a dark, the light.
A folded freak, an unfurled face:
Flashes that she froze and framed
hung on the walls, the edge of space,
cavorting with the unnamable, the unnamed.
And all the partitions crumbled
in a way: Room after room
diverse demonic subjects shot
from one creative womb.
And yet they were as mirrors; fun-
house ones, warped as a mind
where all the differences between,
coiled and contained, unwind.
Each like a leaf reopened
in a terrifying still
too strange for life. Yet I rejoiced
as long lost strangers will
on finding each other, not having known
the other was lost, or was,
shivering with recognition
to each other, they and I—but not
she whose work, although brief,
flash-froze her name on the back
of every glossy, ghastly leaf.
after Diane Arbus, 1923-1971
James B. Nicola
James B. Nicola's poems have appeared recently in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, and Poetry East. His 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). sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola.
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