“Extra Buttons, or, Coming Across” by James B. Nicola

Extra Buttons, or, Coming Across

Today, purging a bit, I’ve come across the cherry commode that used to house our fancy silverware and silver napkin rings and linen napkins when the chest stood between the living and dining rooms of my overstuffed childhood two houses and a lifetime ago.

Lately the cherry chest sat in the spare room of her apartment of the last twenty-five years as the repository of canceled files and palm-sized bric-a-brac we didn’t know where else to reposit, to sift through later, later being today.

And today, purging a bit, I’ve come across the velvet-bottomed tripartite top drawer.

And in the drawer, I come across



Each in a wee manila or clear plastic envelope with a clasp and/or tie, designer label attached, and the words EXTRA BUTTON machine-printed in proud black upper case letters in a fat, serifless font.

Sometimes the words 100% wool squeeze in as well even when the button’s not wool, but rather shiny metal, or velvet, or wood, or plastic, or a makeshift mineral swathed in patterned cloth, all colors, sizes, shapes, thicknesses and styles.

Their coats, blouses, suits, dresses and occasional gowns were dear as lace but sturdy enough—or so overlooked, alas—that these extra buttons never saw a day of use


till now

when they summon up the carloads of fine garments I’d bagged and bequeathed, at her behest, last year.

Like her favorite, a red wool raincoat just like Jackie-O’s—Jackie K, then (I was four that November, but remember).

I see she had written red wool raincoat in blue cursive beneath the black EXTRA BUTTON quite clearly intending the red wool coat for decades of companionship.

It sat too heavily on the bones of her shoulders when I had her try it on last year; she would not be wearing it again.

Yet she oohed and aahed how she had always been voted BEST DRESSED at work so it did not go in a giant plastic bag with the others but hangs now in her closet in the Home.


These bourgeois buttons have been, in fine, moot as an emulated aristocracy of ne’er-do-wells, good for nothing save to be let alone on their sinecure in this cherrywood château.

So as to ID them all the more easily (next time a soul such as mine cares to purge all things) I’ll put them in a clear plastic bag from the greengrocer’s as artifacts of

no, relics from

no, testament to


the impeccable



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 his nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award. Website: James B. Nicola