Sizing Up

Valerie Nieman

The carpenter
in the Craignure Inn,
carrying still his flat pencil
in its narrow pocket,
looks my way now and again,
gauging this accidental bird
alighted at his local.

A small man precise as his work,
measure twice and cut once;
he has a curved nose
and not a spare bit of flesh,
the plane having worked him
close to the bone.
His vest is joined neatly,
his ginger hair clipped.

I unfold myself from the low chair
like a carpenter's rule,
near six feet of well-fed American
woman, and go to settle up.
Behind me at the bar,
I don’t see him but I feel
him quietly slip away.

Craignure, Isle of Mull


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.