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VALERIE NIEMAN

 

 

Valerie NiemanValerie Nieman’s second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, was published in 2015. She is also the author of a collection of short fiction and three novels, the most recent being Blood Clay, which received the Eric Hoffer Award for General Fiction. She has held creative writing fellowships from three states and the National Endowment for the Arts. A graduate of Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches writing at North Carolina A&T State University.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking West from Iona

 

 

 

The waves come into the small bay

where Columba beached his currach,

 

rumbling in the pebbles, casting up

bits of sea-drift, fragments of language

 

not to be interpreted. My mother's ashes

went into the sea off a North Carolina pier,

 

slipping back and forth across the sand flats,

bone bits settling, finer sediment drawn

 

into the gapes of filter feeders. Wishing won't,

praying can't bear even a molecule as far

 

as the Gulf Stream and this shore—there's not a bit

of her dust in all that water, though I lift it by handfuls

 

and pour it back into the startling turquoise sea

draped around this island. I face west,

 

but no Blessed Isles out there, just shore after shore

where life comes in the end to slime or grit—

 

the grave or cindered bones

that cling to the hand that tosses them.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

Iona, beyond the lip of the world,

where Columba's monks abandoned

 

their boats and bent to the hill

under their burden of Christian light,

 

following a saint who, when the walls of his church

would not stand up, sent a brother down

 

to prop them. More than one power in the world,

God above and gods below to be propitiated.

 

After three days, Columba had to know. Unearthing

Odhran, he heard from his lips that neither death

 

nor hell were as believed. “Earth, earth,”

Columba cried, to stop the mouth tumbling words

 

from the other side. Better not to know.

I pick up a small stone, white marble

 

streaked green, Columba's stone, and add it not

to pilgrim cairns nor to the sea,

 

but put it in my pocket

as ballast.

 

 

©2016 Valerie Nieman

 

 

Author Links

 

Valerie Nieman home page

Valerie Nieman author page on Facebook

Selection of poems from Hotel Worthy at Connotation Press

 

 

 

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