From Issue 15: "On Contrast" by John A. Nieves (Poetry)

On Contrast


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.

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Mare Heron Hake

Poetry Editor



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