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?