Summoning the Portal

by John A. Nieves


I. Frame

Sorrow-mouthed and red-capped, maybe
some medieval blues: baby’s a-roastin’
by the citadel. All of us negotiate
our hallucination. All of this for the purpose
of turning our faces from the coupon books–
the two-for-ones and twenty-percent-offs–
to spend our fingerprints on wooden
pencils, on stone fountains, on the smooth
skin that bends along the hipbones
of our lovers, on duvet covers. But the day
boxes on the calendar are always cells, solitary
 
confinement. July should be called Carceri
with its oppressive heat and high utility
bills. We watch a man rub his credit
card like a rabbit’s foot, like it could transmute
dreams to truth. Already his brow is gorge-
deep and his eyes flat grey. He knows at home
the phone is screaming and it will keep
screaming until it blows his happiness
dry, until he husks under the weight
of all those wishes that wore his plastic
shiny. What does it reflect now?
 
II. Jamb

Wire-haired dogs pace the beach. The mad
man with a metal detector sings along
to the beeps battery-free. Once, the reeds
hid the sea. Off shore a boat is dragging
a Sunglass Hut banner. Against the door, your back
is cold and your breath is short. You are reciting
every song that ever saved your life. Your nails
are maroon. The heel of your left shoe is loose.
The beasts in the shadows are hungry. I know
you are fighting off sneezes and yawns
bravely against all that world in every direction.
 
III. Hinge

Hinges–the snag man is always by them, his long
tongue flicking into the ears of the Tuesday
walkers. Hinges–holding out closet raiders
and renegade chickens. So much rests on pins:
 
doors, explosions, electronic withdrawals. Bike
wheels on the boardwalk metronome, take rhythm
at the evening, the gaslights, the neon lights, the heat
lights warming old pretzels, an odd blend of hip-hop
 
and circus music. We are all waiting for names,
for strangers to open their mouths at us and mean
And this must have been the case in older, muddier
streets before the signs hung and the snag man
 
sang his way into the path-fillers’ marching music.
Surely once city and cricket and crow knew
each other’s songs. I am mouthing them now on
the outskirts. What have you?
 
IV. Lock

Little scraps in cryptic
phrasing. Half a chord
crushed into leaf rush
and bent thistle. Over
the water, the Ferris wheel
turns in its best mill
impression, swearing to the sky-
line it is making something
and I move this pen to prove it.