“Captures” and “The Knife Now” by Valerie Nieman

 I sprayed for tiny ants
 late last night, killing the spider
 doing its best to corral them.
 Between the sheets I struggled 
 hand to hand with old lovers 
 and other aliens
 descending cosmic ladders
 to pincer my heart,
 boiling them in the ichor 
 my bare claws released
 from their flesh.
 But this morning,
 I catch a humpback cricket 
 in the sink, cup it 
 between my hands
 and toss it out 
 the back door 
 to take its chances. 
 This morning, I’m
 mild as a painted virgin,
 my hands empty of slaughter. 
"The Knife Now"

 You might be Abraham
 trudging up that slope
 or equally Isaac—
 you can’t tell by how your 
 feet fall on the path
 or the color of the sky.
 Maybe you’re
 the ram at his daily browse
 ensnared by the bush,
 or the angel summoned
 out of itself mid-hover—
 no end to it
 to the burning
 on top of the mountain
 to the bared throats.
 We try to take in something we 
 can’t quite compass
 each of us looking

Valerie Nieman’s poetry has appeared widely, from The Georgia Review to Poetry, and been published in three collections, most recently Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse. Her fourth novel, To the Bones, has been acclaimed as “a parable of capitalism and environmental degradation,” and another novel, Backwater, will be released in 2022. A journalism graduate of West Virginia University, she was a newspaper reporter and editor before completing her MFA at Queens University of Charlotte, and is concluding her teaching career as a professor of writing at North Carolina A&T State University. http://www.valnieman.com