Range Folding (Populus)

by John A. Nieves

“We’re making our weather with a lone light bulb.” — Blake Schwarzenbach

May mist on an October morning, a dim
light in a closet with no light. Like a storm, we are
all vectors: direction, direction, direction. But
our equipment can only measure so much. Clearly,
I knew what you meant when you brushed bodyward
my hand on your knee. I understood a cry of come
here distinctly from a cry of away. The pressure
was easy—its rise and fall. The way it warns not to leave

the umbrella by the door. But this is the story
of not knowing the difference between toward
and away. Of not knowing how close or how far
either of us are. The train blows its warning
from west of us every 110 minutes. It continues
blowing until it is east. This I can measure. When
you roll over, I can see you have not moved east
or west, but whether you have turned to face

me or the wall, it always feels like away. How do
I explain that when you sing a song in the kitchen
or on the steps it sounds like a memory? You have
become my only reference point. The others are backscatter
making the world outside less exact. And now you have risen
enough for me to need to measure altitude, azimuth, your point
on a horizon that is constantly whispering I am not
the horizon.
You are already here. You are already

the name I use for morning, for May mist in October,
the well-lit dim. I wish I understood this system, the way
it swirls and dips and eddies. I wish true north would stay
still long enough for me to fix it in my sightline. Likely
though, I will have to accept these wide bands of uncertainty
dancing across my radar screen, sending back an unsteady
stream of pulses that resemble an old telegraph feed, Morse
code cycling, repeating the thousand ways to spell your name.

John A. Nieves is an Assistant Professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from the University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. His first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize.