There was a time when everybody read
Moby Dick and knew that ambergris was
the sweetly scented vomit of a whale,
and treasured. Sailors who happened upon
it on the open main struck "liquid gold"
because it was the essence of perfume
distilled, bottled and sold, more prized than oil,
and purchased by the privileged pinnacle.

Colognes are brewed of chemicals today,
dispensed to billions. Even authors, taught
to think ourselves leviathans, egest
words stilled from sweetness soured and dispensed
to all but likewise purchased by the few
who don't distinguish, or don't mind, the stench.

James B. Nicola

James B. Nicola is the author of six collections of poetry, the latest being Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense. His decades of working in the theater culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award.