Monday Dec 11

NiemanValerie Valerie Nieman worked for three decades as a journalist while honing her skills as a poet and fiction writer. Her third novel, Blood Clay, set in Piedmont North Carolina, will appear in spring 2011 from Press 53. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Fidelities, from West Virginia UP, and a poetry collection, Wake Wake Wake. She has received an NEA creative writing fellowship, two Elizabeth Simpson Smith prizes in fiction, and the Greg Grummer Prize in poetry. A graduate of West Virginia University and the M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte, she teaches writing at N.C. A&T State University and is the poetry editor for Prime Number.

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In the Middle of Things
 
 
We are fighting as we turn into the parking lot with a view of the lake, the lake going down to red clay with the August heat, the lake turning its back on the green shore against which it has happily spooned for months.
 
An eagle is lifting away from the backwater behind the marina, white tail flaring and white head, like paper flung from a window, like anything that makes our eyes cut, showing whites.
 
We are fighting about the usual, those things we fight about, and the eagle is carrying something long and limp, a snake or a water-soaked stick to add to the residence, beating black wings to gain altitude.
 
And if we were not fighting, I might have said, see, the eagle, and if you were not
staring out the opposite window you would have noticed.
 
 


The Leopard Lady Finds Lost Things


Two farm boys shuffle outside my tent:
Lady Panthera? You turn into a cat or sumpin’?
So the wicker chair crick-cracks. One sets an overbig hand
on the crystal, a streak o’ sweat shows and gone.
 
It’s my watch, he says, I lost it, but he got another question
under his skin like a warble-grub ’bout to burst.
Folk always asking after lost valuables to test and try me,
whilst their hearts pine after love or hope gone by.
 
He stare at the crystal as do they all, a place to rest
their eyes lessen they meet up with mine. This boy’s fortune
is tied to the one outside, neither smart nor strong,
a weak pillar he could break had he more grit than girth.
 
“Lost: somewheres twixt sunrise and sunset,” I tell him,
“two golden hours, ever’ minute a diamond.”
A worthy saying, found in a brown book and squirreled
in my brain. “No reward made for hours gone forever.”
 
He lays his greenback dollar in the bowl.
Well, it was a Timex. Seems like I’m paying you for nothing.
 
Then come the word, as it come:
 
Time secretly secretly moves.
Bends the alder branch.
Seek under stone over sand.
 
His mouth gape like a catfish, and I see
through his eyes the creek knowed as Alder Branch,
a stone ledge by two paces of scuffled sand,
two bodies naked under the moon.
 
He will find the watch where he took it off’n his wrist,
shudder at the question not asked.