Alfred Nicol

The Man in the Middle 


Aroused from our squalor,
we cheer and we holler—
babies in Babylon
gurgle his name!

Embracing and chanting,
we race to him panting.
Aflutter we fly to him,
moths to the flame.

The man in the middle’s
a cake on the griddle.
We all want a piece of him,
he is so good.

Paraders are drumming,
our champion’s coming!
We’d rise from our hospital
beds if we could.

His fame is unbounded.
He’s always surrounded,
right there in the middle where
no one can see.

He’s kind and he’s caring.
He’s reckless and daring.
He’s everything anyone
dreams he might be.


We’re learning about him.
There’s reason to doubt him:
he’s of the opinion 
the world isn’t flat.

That’s one of his ruses.
He’s making excuses
for why he keeps leaning 
to this side or that.

The man in the middle’s
too much of a riddle.
We’d always assumed he would
be one of us.

Our confidence shaken,
we feel we’ve been taken.
He’s not with the team. He should
get off the bus.

And sooner or later
he’ll prove he’s a traitor,
who had us all dreaming while
we were asleep.

We’re not apt to thank him.
We’ll spank him and yank him
and toss him in pieces on
top of the heap.

Alfred Nicol’s publications include Animal Psalms (Able Muse, 2016), Elegy for Everyone (Prospero’s World, 2010), and Winter Light (University of Evansville, 2004). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New England Review, Dark Horse, Commonweal, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, The Best American Poetry 2018 and other literary journals and anthologies.