Four poems by John A. Nieves

To Sampson from the Back Porch

Dear Mr. Hat, How do we talk now

across this path from renovated to American

burnweed bed to worn to newer? It’s hard to say

if the same wind hushed the same loblolly

needles nightly into morning. It’s harder to say

furnace without fire. Where did the cats sleep?

In what crack? Under which floor? The brick

stack hides clouds like clouds hide. All alone

in the sky, a shrine to molten iron and what fell

from it and what stayed: you. Not your shoes. Not

the company. Not the century. Here in the whiskers

and wavyleaf basketgrass where you should be

sleeping, where the long alphabet of your body

should translate directly into this ground, more

yours than Maryland’s, more you than place. If

you could call them all, every hungry mew, every

smoky ear or alligator eye, would you name

them again or love them as one body, as the one

thing you couldn’t keep in place?

New Release (Fortuna Minor)

Once a song I wrote took

a vacation to the headwaters

of the Mississippi and was