Ode to the Sterile Neutrino
John A. Nieves

Ode to the Sterile Neutrino

The first shiver came on a pebble beach. I was only
old enough to drink a beer on the freezing shore, but not
to buy it. I’ve heard the particles called ghosts, but they have

never died. I’ve been told they can pass through you
by the million. But this was one. Just one—something
with almost no mass that makes the gears of the universe

tick and tock and if we take it out of the equation, no one
can say why or how anything. They think maybe it is
the stuff of dark matter, maybe the secret to the mass

of the uncharged. The second time, I was across the continent
throwing stones. I gave in to the hackles and quakes again
when I first said the spell of a poem to an audience

of my own, when each line left my tongue. I knew
it wasn’t my words or nerves, but something silent
giving every sound weight. And here, evasive particle, phantom

vibration working through walls and distance, you have
taught me I had been taking shallow breaths my whole
life. Oh, lovely neutrino, how a full lung of air changes

the laws of physics, how the sweetened breath nourishes.
Even if I cannot lay my eyes on you, I feel, I believe.

John A. Nieves

has contributed to 32 Poems, Southern Review, Copper Nickel, Poetry Northwest, and other journals. His first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Judge’s Prize. He is an assistant professor at Salisbury University.