John A. Nieves

Random Pulls from the Body Tarot

One of Feet

This card is about balance. It is best to hope
for the wind to settle, for all shaking
to cease. Embrace stasis. Keep your arms
extended and your head up. Your movements,
if any, will either be tentative or blind
leaps. If this is your guiding card, find a tree
to lean on or a good cane. You will need
help. Try not to ask for it. Acquire it instead.

Two of Torsos

Nectar. Rolling beads. You are only quiet
for the small shard of a second after you
swallow. Hard breathing. Hard kneading. Wet
eyes and hands and the middle is vibrating. You
are so close to song now, you can almost imagine
your bridge, your refrain. Lips are licked. Throat
cleared. Someone nearby is learning
to mouth the tune.

The Immune System

It is important to eat what is in front
of you. You are saving a life with every
bite. Cut the RNA chain. Kill the carrier. This
card is violent. It lives in paper cuts, in the system’s
rusty sea. If someone comes disguised as a friend,
eat them. If the traffic is too much to bear, encase
it, digest it. Teach it whiteout conditions. Teach
dissolution as solution. Drown the sirens, the horns.

Four of Feet

Now is a time for planning. Write down the names
of your dreams and place them on ribbons. Choose
one blindly and tie it to the closest person. Don’t
read it aloud. Don’t demand it come true. Already, the other
senses the invasion. Something soft and foreign pulled tight
around so much self. Outside the window you can see
a direction at least one of you wants to go. At least
one of you wants to go. Touch the knot. Say stay.

Three of Heads

One breathes words into the ears of another. This
card smells the breath of the third. It is shallow. Either
excited or disappointed. The keys on the table are too
far to reach for any of you. And still, someone needs
to escape. The watching is savage. So is the forgetting.
Every eyelash seems both quill and spear. What will they
be dipped in to finish the scene? Speak only in addresses.
Location is everything. The slow air leaks from ceiling vents.

The Endocrine System

This card governs glacial change. You have been making
a life-altering decision for years. No reason to stop
now. The bills are paid for the month and you can go
to your favorite Thai restaurant and have a nice spicy
panang. Feel the lime leaves on your tongue. Today
you are less likely to have a child. Or more likely. Today
the coconut is creamy enough to prevent this from feeling
pressing. Chew. Rest. Chew. Rest. Pepper your blood.

Seven of Hands

What do you do with that many hands? You can’t
pair them. At best, you can run them over something
interesting, like gypsum, or terry cloth, or a ratty book
cover. Thirty-five fingers could probe their way
through a forest. Some would get splinters; at least one
would get a tick. Probably a few would run over the length
of your body and find it just right. Find it just the way
they left it when the first cards were drawn.

John A. Nieves

John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, and Fugue. He won the 2011 Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio (2014), won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. Please visit his website at