Listen to a reading of Two Poems by John A. Nieves.
Is it a crime to shiver as the chorus
of howls stitches itself into the night
that tonight is a coarse hide, a tegument
of dark and stars and ice and pack?
Should we believe the light one pale
face sheds on frozen fields? Long ago
people swore they could hear ghosts
of family and friends in the wolves’
synchronous bay. More than a few tried
to go to them. And they did. And for a while
the song stopped. Something was sated. Some-
one’s wish had come true in mouth, on tongue.
In the dying creak of hinge
music, you sold me
on the rules. Doors beat moons
because moonlight moves
so slowly through oak that the sun
beats it into the room. Moons beat
games since games can only be
played on the moon’s schedule.
Games best doors because doors can be
used in games like Peek-a-boo and Hide
-and-seek and We’re-all-safe-in-here.
In the first round, we both threw
doors. Yours red with a wrought iron
knocker, mine bare ash
with cheap brass adhesive
numbers. Yet, somehow, this was a tie.
I remember how you toed the soil, just a crumb
of disappointment in your slim grin. In round two,
you went moons and I went
doors: Beaver and Cellar, respectively. Since
even pressboard keeps out a measure of late
autumn night, I went up one
nothing. Your eyes narrowed. I knew
you had designs on my Jawbox
record. I could see you mouthing the iodine
night sky. Next you went Wolf and I
went Twister. We were all tied
up and dripping spittle—me because you
were so close, you because the songs were
so close. Your eyes went mirrorful.
The next throw could decide
it. Yet, I went Charades and you,
Ouija. I was pretending to be a ghost
and you were pretending to talk to me. The fan
wobbled dischord into the room. One more
time. You sputtered out the count and shot
Garage against my Freeze Tag. I won;
you kept your word. I got one long
kiss before you left. I tried to give you
the record anyway, but you were out
(straight to veins through eyes) across the desert
sea. I remember the tide that took you
to Carolina and me to Tampa. How cruel
to ebb and flow simultaneously, to rise
and close and play on all that flat black.
About the author:
John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Southern Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, 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.