Scavenger Tercets

Hellbent on beauty was tagged on the side

of a retention wall a few yards from the river. All

the flowers shorter than black-eyed susans

looked earthward as if they understood. At dusk,

the strays would gather where the grass

ended to eat the day’s trash. We would sit on

the middle branches of the birches across the way

and imbibe the rhythms of the scene. How often

lips were licked, paws cleaned. We would watch

the dimming sky turn the feast into only flickering

mirrored eyes. This is how I learned the value

of silence. If we made noise, the show was over

and everyone left hungry. This is how I learned

to love leaving: when at last we slunk away

everyone was satisfied. And how (if you were

very careful, very still) the thinnest limb

could hold you—even night respects

how bodies can quiet into shadows.


John A. Nieves’ poems appear in journals such as: Crazyhorse, Southern Review, Willow Springs, North American Review and Massachusetts Review.  His first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Judges Prize. He’s an Associate Professor at Salisbury University and an editor of The Shore Poetry.