Lovesick Walrus Turns Up on Orkney Beach

Valerie Nieman

“He’s probably come from Greenland or the west coast of Russia …I doubt he will find love here. It’s bad enough for humans on North Ronaldsay.”
The Daily Record and Sunday Mail

Farms consider each other
across the wind-flattened grass;
inside the houses, people do the same,
pondering the half-empty marital bed.

Squabbles take years to clear:
people so few, so close,
you cannot afford to fight
but cannot help it.

Things cannot move on.

The skies promote sleeplessness.
Auroras suffuse the winter nights;
in summer the fallen sun kindles clouds
from below the horizon.

The beam from Stevenson’s tall lighthouse
makes its rounds over land and far out to sea,
beware, beware this low ground
ringed with reefs and skerries.

A hard place to come aground, this,
a harder place to call home.

North Ronaldsay, Orkney


About the Author

Valerie Nieman’s third collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, features work that has appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, Southern Poetry Review, and other journals. Her writing has appeared widely and been selected for numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods (WVU) and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (U Georgia). She has held North Carolina, West Virginia, and NEA creative writing fellowships. She teaches workshops at John C. Campbell Folk School, NC Writers Network conferences, and many other venues. Her readings have included the WTAW, Piccolo Spoleto, and Joaquin Miller series. Her fourth novel, To the Bones, is coming out from WVU Press in spring 2019. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.