A Poem by John A. Nieves

John A. Nieves

John A. Nieves

John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: North American Review, Copper Nickel, American Poetry Review, 32 Poems and Southern Review. He won the Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is associate professor of English at Salisbury University and an editor of The Shore Poetry.



“Sharpen your teeth or lay flat”—Isaac Brock

I remember the way your lips ripped through       the word
no like it were a paper wall and paradise lived on the other

side. They’d tell you            to drink your water. No. To eat
anything. No. Not to gnaw your nails to red flesh. And there

was never any blanket that could keep you
warm. There was never any                     door you could stand

being open. When the sickness turned and began to pull
every part of you                away, you wouldn’t take a hand

or a pat on the shoulder or the shadow    of a smile. Eventually,
your daughter slipped into silence by your side and the rest

of us resorted to calling. She would step out into the hall to give
us       updates. Is she doing any better? No. Is she speaking

to you? No (quieter, rounder and wetter in the younger mouth).
Is she still                breathing?