A furbelow is fur below

sewn on to cause a stir below

but hardly keeps the ankles warm.

     In fact it has no function, only form.


Epitome of decadence,

what can it offer but offense

to someone whose aesthetic taste

     or moral sense eschews such frills and waste?


Now I’ve seen hungry masses bleed

and heard them howl, and am agreed

the we should spurn the pointlessness

     of affluence and decadent excess.


But there is some philosophy

that counters this simplicity

suggesting Life’s a cabaret

     you know the movie and the Broadway play.


And operas that enthrall and move

were not intended to improve.

While Nero’s tunes, no man condones,

     today some violins make pleasant tones.


The conscientious acts you do—

I’ve done them too—are nothing new.

But Shakespeare didn’t really write

     to change the world forever but delight


the Globe; while Einstein, Roosevelt,

even Gene Kelly, will be felt

for a good while—but none will know

     them in a hundred million years or so.


And authentic acts of charity

aren’t earmarked for posterity,

while any consciousness we raise

     will only be lowered again in a thousand days.


But let’s sow on, though what we sew

may only be a furbelow,

for it is, in fine, a third of All—

     along with foofaraw and folderol.



James B. Nicola


James B. Nicola’s poetry and prose have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest, Green Mountains, and Atlanta Reviews; Rattle; Barrow Street; Tar River; and Poetry East, garnering two Willow Review awards, a Dana Literary award, one Best of the Net nom and seven Pushcart nominations. His full-length collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page (2016), 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). His decades of working in the theater as a stage director, composer, lyricist, playwright, and acting teacher culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award. A Yale grad, he currently hosts the Hell's Kitchen International Writers' Round Table at his library branch in Manhattan: walk-ins welcome.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post