Sunday May 26

NievesJohnA John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: American Literary Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, and Puerto del Sol. He won the 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.

Long Slow Simmer (Conjunctio)

This broth is distance
thickened with arrowroot. Boiled
and simmered. In went the fennel to bring
wind and the words that ride it. In
went the garlic to light the old
songs, to play them like crackling radio
on the tongue, through the lips. Hey,
the water was never really that

clean. I make this soup by dirtying
it up some more. And hey, in went carrot
to tell the earth that it can’t keep
everything. In the serrano so we know

the sting of gathering, of transmutation.
Hey, take a sip from this little
spoon. Hold it. Hold it and guess
what’s missing. There is always

something. A little turmeric to mimic
sundown, some thyme to turn
the flavor summer? But remind me
something does not need to be lost
to be missing. Forget bowls. Let’s
eat straight from the pot. Let’s stand
around the stove, all one of us, and argue
how far this brew will take us.


She put a price tag on a salt-washed
door, unhinged in the corner. Lamplight
competing with daylight in the antique

dim (a cushion littered with hatpins,
littered with stickers—years inked across
their neon faces). She stood before it

as if she were going to kick it in two, snap
the sturdy face of it wall-wise. Her back
to me, her back to the cash wrap, the open

sign, every non-emergency exit. I held
my breath without any idea why. I held
my hand above my eyes to stop the sagging

light. Sun beat beach red at my heels. A gull
screamed. I turned for a blink and she was
on the sidewalk tearing a yellow dress

from a flimsy rack, ripping it from
its hanger without even the ghost
of malice in her eyes.


The sun helmeted the grey-
suited folk waiting with all
their hearts for interviews

                        with people who would forget
                        them before they even said
                        hello. You walked into

            the shadow at the back of the room and no one
            could find you again. Sometimes
            in these spaces where all potential

                        is suspended like a blade
                        over the tender flesh of some
                        collective midsection, a person

slips out, but never takes the door,
vanishes like a song from a just-shut-
off radio. The others in the room

            continue to sing along for a second:
            Wasn’t there someone in that seat? I thought
            he said hello when I came in. But eventually

                        they shrug it off or convince themselves
                        they imagined you. You with the small brown
                        bag and shifty green eyes. You who

            kept checking your phone like it could
            ring you out of line, out of a life of waiting
            for someone to tell you what you do

for a living, for someone to tell you
your title. But then, you got up. Left
of the water cooler was a dim spot

                        one could think in. Others came and went
                        and your phone was on the seat. No one sat
                        on it. I took it to turn in to the lost

            and found. The battery was dead. The lady
            in a salmon coat held out a box for me
            to drop it in. Inside were other phones and a few rings.