Pamphleteer Couplets

by John A. Nieves

“How I don’t know what I should do with my hands when I talk to you.
How you don’t know where you should look, so you look at my hands.”
—John K. Samson


It wasn’t always crayons—sometimes chalk or markers, sometimes
just the wish to somehow say. But I pressed hard into paper, each word

like a saber, each word something bright & built for war. I wanted
to write I love you, but my child hand did not know how to make

the shapes to make those sounds. So I drew you maps to nowhere
& words that sound like treasure like umbra & unbeliever, like your

name in brick red, burnt umber & bronze. I don’t think you ever knew
what I was trying to hand to you, but you took each one & studied them

like they belonged in museums. & that was all I knew to hope for, all
I knew to draw for, to buy new colored pencils—cobalt blue, charcoal

grey. I wrote your name in cursive & put it in your mailbox. I didn’t
know then that was a crime. I guess I missed the empty driveway. I guess

I missed the For Sale sign. I missed the way I knew you would approve.
For seven days, I left one to the wind, hoping it would catch & you’d see.


John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: North American Review, Copper Nickel, 32 Poems, American Literary Review and Massachusetts Review. He won the Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is associate professor of English at Salisbury University and an editor of The Shore Poetry.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “Pamphleteer Couplets

  1. Austin Alexis

    Very imaginative. Good use of a starting off point in your use of the epigraph.

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