Poetry Issue #51

To Drink

By Tomas Nieto


The raft of my two hands/
slide together, knuckle to knuckle,/
buckling. The cool water collects/
in the center. I lift this small sea…
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Image: “Union Beach,” by Clement Obropta, digital photograph, 2011

Tomas Nieto

Featured Poet




To Drink

After Ross Gay and Patrick Rosal
The raft of my two hands 
slide together, knuckle to knuckle,
buckling. The cool water collects 
in the center. I lift this small sea 
to my lips as if 
to free my touch with my thirst.



The Storm from the Box

I postmark a heartbeat 	        into a tornado 
and watch 			the boards rip off 
like fall to leaves		 

I share this last bit 
of empty 			with all the dearly departing 
like the slap 
of mahjong tiles 
onto a table 

count them 			flower	flower flower

my doubts river from 		my failure			
I am sorry 	                twists 
a wind 				I hate you 			
running			        down my back 

half-cracked 			half-flickered 			    		
love letter			the bad racket
splintering down
the middle			of the night	

the whole thing 		gutted 
like knife to 			meat				
ash 				thins to memory
the shatter is 		        this way
this church			is
where my stars hunger	        to feast 



Despedida: Clean Zeros

Once, I drove from one end 
of San Diego to the other just 
to have my odometer reach 
one hundred thousand miles. 

The night before I left, I drove those same streets.

I passed the waterfront with all the other restless sleepers. 
The stretch of highway where my car broke down. 
Somewhere, I was still a drummer. Somewhere,
I was still here. And then I was not. 

I drove past old telephone wires tangling 
a cityscape. Palm tree and pot holes. Marriott’s 
and cemeteries. The navy base where
my family flowed through. 
And taqueria upon taqueria
and their midnight medicine.
The fire still smoldering.

A massive spotlight shined against shovels 
digging a new street. It was so bright
I thought there was a second sky. 

Somehow, we all reframe ourselves in the image of desire. 

was the image of clean zeros. 
I want to fill their bellies 
with jagged digits, fill this engine 
with joules and horses and muse. I 
chase them into an open field, 
make them flee, just 
to watch them flutter in the hunt. 
I bend these circles 
until they poured out 
a song.

No celebration,
no fanfare. Just
a car I won’t need anymore. Just 
midnight whistling past.  
Just a blur of houses and highways,
and grains of sand. Just 
a dashboard I dropped so much shit on 
that it turned a different color— 
how that color won’t mean much tomorrow. 

Despedida with only the quiet
that comes after. Just 
the haunting.



Terra Incognita

legend has it as 
dragons and hell
the americas
the west of wests
a necklace of necks
the unclaimed aria
latitude in four arms 
longitude of an upside down 
face grinning
two hollow moons
a nothingness
the dark matter 
the unseen
a science of ends
the shifter of light
the pendulum of two threads 
wailing free
like twin animals 
one the bite 
the other the flesh 
so I run my right 
through the first
until it becomes
what I left 

when my myth 
begins to mouth
it will say:  



Language of My Birth

In a former life, I was a writer, a locksmith, 
a desire. I was a cloud, a gust of wind, 
the gut feeling—a truth. 
I was movement—the muscle, the neuron. No, 
I was revelation and the resistance. But, this 
was how I was born: composed of spark, wrapped 
in smoke, raining a universe. I stacked 
rock upon rock until I am an ocean high,
but at any given moment the strata 
of my breastbone peels back, revealing
how the animals died and the dirt compiled. 
And in the same shake, bloodied eyed,
rib busted, my innards form a new language:
half drowned, half boat.
By Tomas Nieto

Tomas Nieto is a writer and educator from San Diego. He holds degrees from San Diego State University and San Francisco State University. An alum of Las Dos Brujas and VONA/Voices, his work has appeared in Solstice Literary Magazine, The Rumpus, TAYO and others.