The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Valerie Nieman’s “Hotel Worthy”



You ride into town
raising dust, your clothes loose
on a gangster body
that’s been run out
of too many towns.

You swear the thunder I hear
for hours as we talk
will bring rain,
that at your touch
the sky will thicken.

You use blue scarves
and mirrors;
your hands
work overtime.

You raise a sweat.

Your words
strike the dust
like spit on a hot stove;
thin mist rises, engenders clouds.

All my pores open,
like the invisible mouths
lipping the underside
of every leaf,
sorting damp beads into balance.

My eyes leak their blue
out the corners,
lips can’t contain
the spillage of my tongue,
and that swamp,

that Everglades
matted with cypress and slick sheen—
you pause where dry land
slips down, scenting storm,
wondering why this has never happened before.

This selection comes from Valerie Nieman’s collection, Hotel Worthy available now from Press 53. Purchase your copy here!

Valerie Nieman’s second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, was published in spring 2015 by Press 53She was a 2013-2014 North Carolina Arts Council poetry fellow, and has received an NEA creative writing fellowship in poetry. Her awards include the Greg Grummer, Nazim Hikmet, and Byron Herbert Reece poetry prizes, and her work has been published in Poetry, New Letters, Virginia Quarterly Review, Chautauqua, West Branch, Connotation Press, The Missouri Review, and several anthologies. Nieman is the author of three novels: Blood Clay, a novel of the New South, and Neena Gathering, set in a near future Appalachia. A fourth book, Backwater, is now in submission.

Nieman graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University. She was a founding editor of Kestrel literary journal and currently the poetry editor of Prime Number magazine.

Mari Hailu is a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University where she simultaneously received a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Winner of the faculty-nominated 2014 Margaret Terry Crooks Award for Outstanding Creative Writing, and the David R. Russell Poetry Prize, Mari is grateful to be able to share her words with her community. She is a Managing Editor of The Wardrobe, a blog series affiliated with Sundress Publications, and in her spare time she enjoys playing music at local venues.

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