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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Pantoum for Middle Age; [insert title]

By: Bryan Damien Nichols

Pantoum for Middle Age

When darkness crowns the dwindling life

What’s left for us is lesser light.

We pray for youth already gone

As if a candle could unburn.

What’s left for us is lesser light?

Does a tall candle lose its worth

(as if a candle could unburn)

Because the candle’s half-consumed?

Does a tall candle lose its worth

Even though the flame brightly burns?

Because the candle’s half-consumed

We curse the light before our eyes?

Even though the flame brightly burns

We pray for youth already gone.

We curse the light before our eyes

When darkness crowns the dwindling life.

[insert title]

Well, your life is like an infant’s dream—

it’s like everything’s on t.v.

--Flesh for Lulu

I Go Crazy

If you could paint something, what would it be?

Would it be maroon and gold and green

and in the shape of acorn hulls?

Would it be a blend of multi-colored dots?

Would it be an oryx in a field of red?

Or a purple peacock? Or an aureolin owl?—

I find myself asking,

to the dismay of my dinner guests.

(I suppose there’s something stupid

about such a question in such a place

(or perhaps the opposite is true? I don’t know,

and so I’ll stupidly continue.

Am I being pretentious? (Although calling

something pretentious is itself pretentious.))

Look: I have no better footing here

(which means nothing

as this is a dinner party),

unless I can think of something else to say.


So I tell of my time in Leiden, that most memorable

of Dutch cities. The seat of the Netherland’s

“Golden Age,” or so I’m told. Here we go:

You see, my friends,

in Leiden, everyone has a bicycle. The Dutch ride

the bicycle to and fro, as if the bicycle was a car.

And if you—which would be the rare case—

don’t have one, you go to the train station at about

3 a.m. and ask some junkie to steal one for you.

The junkie is almost always a man—don’t get me wrong,

it’s just the truth—and he asks which bicycle you want.

Whichever one you choose, he’s there with bolt cutters

to get it for you. It’s all rather simple. And illegal.

You may think I’m crazy for getting a stranger

to steal a bicycle for me, but here’s the thing: everyone

in Leiden gets their bicycles from the junkies.

What this means is if your bicycle is stolen,

you simply get a junkie to steal another one for you.

And if that bicycle is stolen, you simply get a junkie

to steal another one for you. And on and on,

like the turning of Dutch windmills.

It’s a giant carousel of stolen bicycles!

And if you see your stolen bicycle on the street,

you don’t give a fuck because you have

a stolen bicycle too!


Bryan Damien Nichols was born in Houma, Louisiana, on August 30, 1978. He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in Philosophy from Baylor University, and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. He has practiced law both in Houston and in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Bryan currently lives in Los Fresnos, Texas, with his loving wife, Michelle.

Bryan is perhaps best known for the poetry he writes through his two heteronyms: (1) Kjell Nykvist; and (2) Alexander Shacklebury. These two heteronyms were featured in Bryan’s debut poetry collection, Whispers From Within (Sarah Book Publishing, 2015). In addition to his many individual publications, Bryan has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In his new collection of poems (forthcoming), Bryan writes in his own name and explores numerous themes and issues that are important to him personally.

If you wish to contact Bryan Damien Nichols for speaking engagements or appearances, please email him at

"Pantoum for Middle Age

I wrote 'Pantoum for Middle Age' upon turning 40 years old (I am currently almost 42). The poem is essentially a rebellion against mid-life crisis. To me, the form of the pantoum was perfect for expressing my rebellion, though I honestly cannot explain why.

[insert title]

The funny thing about '[insert title]' is that it is, quite literally, a true story. I studied abroad in the Netherlands during the year 2002, as part of my law school curriculum. At Leiden University, I studied European Equality law (similar to civil rights law) and the law of the World Trade Organization. What I state about bicycles (at least as regards the City of Leiden) is literally true in every sense. I wanted to write a poem about this remarkable experience in Leiden because I have often entertained friends with the experience. Needless to say, my experience happened almost twenty years ago. I cannot know for sure if things are still the same in Leiden today.


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