HomeSouthern VoiceTwo Poems by Valerie Nieman

Two Poems by Valerie Nieman


In a dusty Food Lion parking lot
just up from where crews are carving
Carolina red dirt into the shape
of an eight-lane highway,

a withered arm extends
from the window of a Datsun pickup
to reach a scabby cedar tree,
pull in a branch, break off the end.

Hands strip needles
from the twig and let it drop;
lift up that fresh green
to breathe in the old world.


What I Want

Pineapple in a can
salmon in a can
with crunchy bones
and gray skin, unpleasant
but not so much
as yellow fat crusted
on corned beef from Argentina.
This is not nostalgia
because I wouldn’t want
to go back to that drafty farmhouse
its yellow pantry shelves
stacked with stewed tomatoes,
elbow macaroni,
Old Gold cigarettes,
home-preserved strawberry jam
leaking red around the wax caps.
No, I don’t want to look out
those windows again
but last night
I ate cottage cheese
and I liked it.


Valerie Nieman has been a reporter, farmer, sailor, teacher and always a walker. She is the author of In the Lonely Backwater and four earlier novels, three books of poetry and one of short fiction. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte, she has held state and NEA fellowships. You can find her as @valnieman on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at Read her previous poem in Deep South here.

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