“I can’t imagine her back.”
The slip is quick—
goosebumps pepper your neck,
then maybe you had a chill.
Just like that: conjecture. Just like
that, the wavering catches
in the throat as diction replaces
definition. I say you
to you as if you couldn’t remember
yourself against a backdrop
of black walnut trees or under
a crumbling concrete gazebo.
How can you be in range of both
this whisper and phantom limb?
Cave drawings only work
in caves—amplified by the sanctity
of hollow hills, of firm places
to hide. Exposed, they are childlike
and impressionist like your bangs
after a quick rain, so innocently caught
trying to say something they have
no language for. Panorama
is key. If there are shadows, we can
not question the shadows. I have bitten
my lip as the sun slid off and left
us both contingencies, both a hint
of something on the other’s breath.
This morning, you were thumbing
a book like you were hitching a ride
and the cover said history—actually,
not figuratively, and I looked down
and couldn’t be sure we were there. I stroke
the keys and hear the plastic symphony
of depression in quick succession. I am
writing you out of history so I have
a chance to remember your thumb
on the spine, the old gold binding
leaning brown, the half-smile
that only teased of present tense.
John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as Southern Review, Indiana Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New York Quarterly, Ninth Letter, Poetry Northwest and Cincinnati Review. He won the 2011 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and the 2010 Southeast Review AWP Short Poetry contest.