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2019

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

FINALIST, 2018 JAMES APPLEWHITE POETRY PRIZE

Eleanor: Suite 1. My Mother Goes

COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

BY VALERIE NIEMAN

She went gray early and lost her eyebrows, tracing the arches with a Maybelline pencil. Her belly sagged from births and butchered surgeries. Her hands were spotted – I flinched from their touch, blamed the white blotches on scrubbing floors for others. Eventually, it was easier to stop seeing her at all. Lately, I am startled by my own hands, bleached by vitiligo, the ailment for which I did not have a name, and, when I sing, to find her living in my throat.

detail of Mother’s Keeper, 2017 (deconstructed quilt, cotton batting, hand stitching, India ink, acrylic, and metal leaf, 76x90) by Rachel Meginnes

2. Lessons What is the proper temperature for dishwater? My hands would always pull back, my eyes ready to see the skin slip off red flesh like a scalded peach. That’s the relentlessness of it, an education in how to tolerate what is necessary – fitting your self to clothes that don’t, to the unceasing needs of others, parents to tend, a damaged man to prop, a child whose passage to adulthood was one long rending.

VALERIE NIEMAN teaches writing at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. She graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and is the founding editor of two literary magazines. Her work has been anthologized most recently in Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods (West Virginia University Press, 2017) and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2018). Her awards include the 2017 Flyleaf Books poetry prize and the Greg Grummer, Byron Herbert Reece and Nazim Hikmet poetry prizes. She is the author of three novels, including Blood Clay (Press 53, 2011; reviewed in NCLR Online 2012), winner of the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction; a collection of short stories, Fidelities (West Virginia University Press, 2004); and two poetry collections, Wake, Wake, Wake (Press 53, 2006; reviewed in NCLR 2007) and Hotel Worthy (Press 53, 2015; reviewed in NCLR Online 2016). Her most recent books are a novel in verse, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse (Press 53, 2018) and a novel, To the Bones (West Virginia University Press, 2019). Her poetry has appeared in NCLR 2011 and 2012 and NCLR Online 2012.

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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