John A. Nieves
Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes.
"On Contrast" first appeared in Issue 15 of Tahoma Literary Review. This work by John A. Nieves presents us with both seasonal and personal details as the poetic voice mirrors the environment in the spaced line. For me, this poem is a recognition that making a certain kind of choice can be a hard process, or soft, or both, when private geography, memory, and present experience inevitably blend.
In the heat, sometimes, it is easy
to forget. It is easy to wipe the sweat and keep
talking, even while we are panting, even
while every syllable rediscovers
thirst. In the cold, things are harder and like
gems, able to glint differently at specific
angles. I remember walking across this
field in February with a thin crust
of fresh frost. I had a loose tooth from a bad
fall and my fleece was dirty. The crocuses
had just peeked up and they believed
in the pale sun and progress. My boots were wet
but my socks were dry. I knew I was never
going back south. The wind sucked the fresh
powder a few inches off the ground like the elegant
swish of a gown. Here, now, on the humid porch
among the flies and talk of plane tickets, I force
myself back to that resolve. I will not buy
the rot and darkness. I will not let myself forget
how constant blooming means constant death.
The promise of winter is the promise of knowing
what the world will whisper coolly in your ear,
what it will take from your bones and your breath.
In the endless summer, though, the cost is stealthy—decay
does not declare itself. What is softest, ripest,
is closest to death.
reprinted with the permission of the poet
John A Nieves had this to say about his work:
I was intrigued by the way both cold and heat erase different things. I started thinking about the way we think of cold as death when winter is essentially an incubator in which the days keep getting longer. Summer is a constant cycle of eating and rotting and growth and death and shortening days. I wanted to catch these ideas on a personal level in a kind of meditation where the forced caesuras reinforced what was disappearing. I hoped to capture the emotional poignancy of two simple, echoed moments.
Learn more about John at johnanieves.com.