Alfred Nicol


Division of Labor

The first man dreams away his afternoons,
a second plays with words. A third’s in charge
of central metaphor; a fourth communes
with Nature. Fifth, ambassador-at-large,
seeks images on far, exotic shores;
another sinks his heels into the soil.
A seventh does the punctuation chores;
an eighth supplies emotional turmoil.
The ninth man burns a candle to the muse,
the tenth keeps count to get the meter right.
Eleven finds an editor to schmooze
while twelve becomes acquainted with the night.
This man’s peculiar business is in tropes.
Apprentices address the envelopes.

Alfred Nicol is this year’s recipient of The Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award. Nicol’s book of poetry, Elegy for Everyone, published in 2009, was chosen for the first Anita Dorn Memorial Prize. He received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award for an earlier volume, Winter Light. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Dark Horse, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, and other literary journals.