Three Poems

Almost Spring

You’re nothing like a ghost,
nothing wispy. You don’t even resemble
air or mist. Instead, the weight is all
I have—laced with cold, garnished

with a name you’ll never tell
anyone. Still, they lay you in my arms
like you could cry yourself back,
like you even knew

how. For a second, I think of opening
your eyes, but falter, afraid to know
whose they were. I want to hum Brahms’
lullaby, but you are not

listening. I count
backwards from February and try
to erase this. I get to June.
You’re still quiet, still heavy, still.


Already, the numbers are not lining up—
the combination had a change of heart

midspin. Already, I have lost faith
that the button on your door connects

to anything, or even that you live
in there at all. Cars fumble along the edges

of street drainage, runoff from poorly crowned
roads. Sometimes the people are singing

or talking, but mostly the tint is too dark
to even insinuate an operator. Already,

their noise has buried your breath. I used
to be able to hear you sigh from across

town in heavy traffic. Now, I knock steadily,
not even sure if that sound means, but not ready

to crawl past the shame-faced buildings
that have also forgotten their contents. I pace

my breathing, fast and shallow. The air chaps
my throat. Already, some confusion grips

my tongue—what words? The keys
in my pocket will stay in my pocket. I should leave

something as proof that I was here, even if
this is the wrong address, even if it takes all night.

Those Are Not Clouds, They Are Smoke Signals

The pen moves along the nightly
news, as your plane lands somewhere
else. I find the rudiments of a scene.

Three symbols static—
no one escapes, no one dies
(a pictograph, a hieroglyph):

a house on fire,
a telephone tree,
a mother with child,

potential for tragedy
for heroism, for ritual
sacrifice. Because of your absence,

I burn myself in proxy. I send
this to you encoded
in lightning’s DNA and pressed

into a wire—the same way
it was born in me. Dawn
gerry rigs its signature

across a slightly smoggy
sky, yet the room takes this
all in, thumb over thumb. Even

the constant quiet crinkling of my own
skin becoming dust. Tomorrow,
I’ll wipe the surface, throw myself

away. Then exhale and go
about my business, maybe
answer the phone, maybe say hello.

JOHN A. NIEVES has poems published or forthcoming in journals such as: Fugue, SLAB, Sunscripts, White Mule, California Quarterly, Chrysanthemum, Lilliput Review, Red Owl, Hidden Oak Poetry Journal and Florida Review. He received the Charles Conway Memorial Award at the Florida Suncoast Writers Conference and the Estelle J. Zbar Poetry Prize from the University of South Florida. He received an M.A. in Creative Writing from USF in 2006. He is currently enrolled in the Creative Writing Ph.D. Program at the University of Missouri.