Poetry: Selections from Nolo Segundo

On Eating An Orange And Seeing God

I miss the big navels when they are not in season,
but almost any orange will do when I really want to see God.
But it must be done right, this seeing, this apprehension of the Lord of the Universe, Lord of All the Worlds, both seen and unseen….
First I feel how firm the orange is, rolling it in my hands,
the hands of an artist, the hands of a poet, and now the stiff and cracked hands of an old man--
then I slice it in half and look at its flesh, its brightness,
its moistness, its color--
if the insides beckon, urging my mouth to bite,
I first cut each half into half and then slowly, carefully--
as all rituals demand-- I put one of the cut pieces between my longing lips and gradually, with a sort of grace, bite into the flesh of the sacrificial fruit.
I feel the juice flow down my throat and recall the taste of
every orange I ever had, even in my childhood—or so it
seems, with this little miracle of eating an orange.
As I finish absorbing, still slowly and gracefully, its flesh,
the last bit of what had been one of the myriad wonders
of the world, I look at the ragged pieces of orange peel
and I see poetry-- or God-- it’s really the same thing,
isn’t it?

On Viewing The Corpse Of My Mother-in-law

How could this --thing, have been her?
Lying shriveled and small on the bed
As those who loved (and feared) her
Gathered in the bereft hospital room
To let their shock and grief melt and
Mold itself into its own atmosphere.
Her body seemed never to have been
Real, never to have been a woman,
Never to have been young once, and
Surely never to have been a mother…..  
And if it had been a body once, housing
A small dragon who could lash out fire
Solely with her harsh and brutal tongue,
Keeping those who loved her at bay and
The rest of us wary, aware of her power,
Her terrible gift for shrinking one’s soul,
Then where did she go when her mouth
Froze open as the last breath of a long,
Life left quietly, without fuss or rancor?
Still, though imperfect as you or I, she
Was loved and mourned and honored.
If God only housed saints, think how
Terribly lonely He would be…..

A Passing Glance

The other day
as I turned the corner
onto my quiet street
I saw a woman so perfect,
she snatched my breath away
as she waited to cross the road.
It was like seeing a movie star
or a beauty queen close up--
my heart ached a bit, I confess,
when I thought, once, a long time
ago, I might have had a chance….
But now I’m just an old man
driving an old car to an old house.
I drove slowly and could see
her gracefully crossing the street
in my rear-view mirror, much
like a dream fading quickly away …
suddenly, from somewhere far
beyond my mind, I realized
the truth of what I saw: that
it was all just stupid illusion--
she was young and beautiful,
I, old and lame, but those were
just markers on the wheel of time.
The wheel would turn,
my body would die, hers would age,
no longer enrapturing men—in truth
she was already an old woman which
I could not see, nor could I see the
sweet child still playing within her.
When there are no more days left,
our souls will be free of the wheel,
and all the world’s illusions will
seem as distant, fading dreams.

Nolo Segundo, pen name of L.J. Carber, 75, became a published poet in his 8th decade in over 80 literary journals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Romania, and India. A trade publisher has released two book length collections: The Enormity of Existence [2020] and Of Ether and Earth [2022]. Nominated earlier this year for the Pushcart Prize 2022, he's a retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] who's been married 42 years to a smart and beautiful Taiwanese woman.