How Much

How much would you want your love to love you?
Tell me, and I’ll make note of your reply.

Enough to marry you? Good. I’ll be there.

Enough to swear fidelity forever?
Fine, I’ll hold the book. You choose the book.

Enough to stick it out through thin and thick?
through captious in-laws? dumb financial ruin?
the loss of a child? a prolonged illness?
an accident that disables one of
you so much that the other has to wipe?
and, worst of all, those nights and years of boredom?
Wow. I cheer for you. Hear the applause?

Enough to hurt so much that when your love
comes home one day and finds you with another
love, that one of you—at least one—gets
your brains blasted to smithereens, for love?
I’ll call the cops and even testify.

But I can never love that much, no way.
Enough to blow one’s brains out? two brains? three?
For murder must not terminate the heart
that is designed to love. And live. And learn?

Alas, when I love I shall only love
twice that much. Three times. Four. Infinity.

And now you understand why I am single.

James B. Nicola

James B. Nicola is a returning contributor to The South Shore Review. His poems have also appeared in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews; Rattle; and Barrow Street. His seven full-length collections (2014-22) are Manhattan Plaza, Stage to Page, Wind in the Cave, Out of Nothing, Quickening, Fires of Heaven, and Turns & Twists. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His poetry has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller's People's Choice award, one Best of Net nomination, and eight Pushcart noms—for which he feels both stunned and grateful.