Because you went

into the ocean, I can find no solace in the earth.

I planted nothing as April came, May. I let grass spring in the garden, stuffed the mouths of porch urns with gaudy plastic.

In September, I brought home pots of bugleweed. Then a Virginia sweetspire, bought on an afternoon from hell. This, perhaps, will live in my baked-clay yard? The nurseryman offered no guidance.

Then a blackberry lily, shiny seeds ready to burst, and catmint, chrysanthemums, society garlic, whatever was left on the clearance table. The earth opened up and I began to dig, dig, iris out, lilies out, thick roots into the black wagon to be hacked apart.

Crickets crackling away.

I put in verbascum and beautyberry – already past their prime even as I settled their feet in the cold dirt.

Getting down to it, a shovel finds where clay ends at rock.


Valerie Nieman is the author of two poetry collections, the most recent Hotel Worthy, and three novels. She has held North Carolina and NEA creative writing fellowships. A graduate of Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at NC A&T State University.