John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, and Minnesota Review. He won the 2011 Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio (2014), won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.
Adding Zero to Everything
“All that hangs must first be hung,” she said
moving west like old snow
across freshly sown parking blocks.
The contrast was the meaning:
furrows from weekday tires
slouched under the weight of noon.
She threw her shoes over a telephone wire.
They dangled, orphaned
like coins in some forgotten well.
“It's perfect. It's everything I wanted it to be.”
She exhaled ten years of goodnight kisses,
her lips wet with their newfound wishlessness.
“What is it?” I asked,
watching white sneakers
teeter like crippled clouds.
She rubbed the back of her neck with both hands,
whispered like a mint on a pillow:
In the dark, on bird's wings,
we close the most important wounds—
our hands the periapt. For nights
the fire's tight hiss threatened
to stand between us and the river.
No hint of barcarolle when you asked
me to dip my oar into regret, to stir
a little and tell you what eddied
to the surface. Wild flowers struck
teal and goldenrod against the purpling
horizon. I know you better
in your sleep. Your cough has two parts
less rasp and one part more reverb—
a cocktail slightly remixed. Gloss
across your lips trains its glint
into my quiet spaces, light like
a hand on clay. You have to push
only a little for me to give. I give
and an edge becomes a slope. I have
curved to fit and you have stepped
onto the wheel. What noise and silence
meet at the receiver, the mouth piece,
in the promise of pagination? Shawls
invisible against the night. I wrap my hands.
The dark fleck in the diamond
can only be coaxed with gentle pressure.
We press the moon into the stone. Overhead
the clouds move through loops, cresting
cursive, reflecting in the surface of our wine.
We toast and sip the sky. High thin wind
clings to promises wrought in fairy fire
and other dances light does when our pupils
make our irises thinner atolls, when we
mirror each other into each other, rescue
our reflections from the riptide.
Bodies in Exile, Bodies at Rest
My hands are older than your eyes.
Yellow light plays tag with ice cubes.
You shake, sniff, but do not sip.
Old lovers under your fingernails
keep your grip weak.
He has neon in his hair.
It slides across curls like a flag on a coffin.
The charm of black flowers and new decay.
He is not willing you in his direction.
The moon in his eyes is waning-
it holds no sway over you.
Plus, you're out of introductions,
the coasters are black,
so is your pen.
Somewhere a match is struck
and blown out in the same fluid motion.
Arrows of condensation pelt your neck.
I have forgotten my name
in harmony with the lonely
tolling of last call—
a weapon for leaving,
the stickiness of floors washed with secrets.
You are teaching children how to drown.
You are holy in the middle of the room.
You are wholly in the middle
with hands too young for dirt,
eyes lined with salt,
standing without posture,
stillness in flux.