Swan and Jack-knife


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Product Description

poems by

Nikia Leopold

ISBN: 978-1-59948-497-6, 72 pages, cover price: $14

Release date: May 19, 2015


About The Author

GPeck_Px_2015_BkStoreNikia Leopold is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars in Poetry, and has a Ph.D. in Art History, also from Hopkins. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, including The American Scholar, Commonweal, Measure, The Southern Review, and Poetry. Her chapbook, Dark Feathers, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2004. Another, Small Pleasures, won the 2012 Blue Light Press Contest, Winter 2014 – 2015. She writes and illustrates children’s books and lives in Ruxton Maryland with her husband, Bruce, and their two cats.


In Nikia Leopold’s Swan and Jack-knife, we gain intimate access to the mind of a loving wife and daughter. We also come to understand the difficulty of those relationships, their long-held grievances and responsibilities, their silences and losses. A speaker tells us, “there are no happy endings – / only the book closing its eyes.” But these poems have their eyes open, and if the garden they describe is fallen, it is also one whose truth we can’t deny.  –Natasha Sajé, author of Vivarium

Niki Leopold is an exquisite receiver of sensory news, complex emotions, hints of meaning. Her poems are passionate, delicate, fierce, brave.  –Mary Azrael, Publisher of Passager

There is an exquisite delicacy held by every line and by each discrete moment in Nikia Leopold’s gorgeous new collection, Swan and Jack-knife. The grace and elegance of the imagination in these poems reminds us of the solace and pleasure available in art when beauty and experience are coupled in the hands of such an accomplished poet. –David St. John


The Wedding Present

Without asking, you took the wood
from your father.
Cherry – he kept for its beauty.
You kept yourself away from me,
making a cutting board,
my wedding present.

You fitted butterfly joints
while I fought with my mother
over details of cut and length,
missing your body.
Two feet by one –
not your body, the board.
He resented your taking the wood.

Even now I take that personally.
Though the cutting board
is two decades old,
and has a meaty patina, an odor
like a dog’s breath. Even now,
after your father’s last visit,
when he told me wonders
as we drank late, alone:
your mother’s fluent
orgasms, her thefts of spoons
from relatives.

Still, I’m hard, like the board.
I don’t forget the time you took away from me,
the grudge he held for his wood.

Hollow Trunk

Because I chose to have no children,
there will be no burial,
no scattering.
When my skeleton is clean
hang it in the cherry tree,
legacy of long, light bones
making music with the wind,
drumming to the ‘tock’ of woodpeckers
on a hollow trunk.
I hope the neighbors will listen
to my knocking with some pleasure
and no fear –
I’ve never really wanted to come in.


Dreaming while sparrows chip
dark into dawn,
I kiss the soft crook
of my mother’s arm.

Grey morning, and the rain’s
small change
hardly worth getting up for.
I’ll stay in bed, let the house

slip down the street,
grand old ship, searching
for all the drowned children
who grew up in it,

while I imagine being a tulip,
rooted, simple,
emerging every April
from the nether-world of bulbs,

worshipping pollen, light rain
on my flower-flesh
smoothing the crooks
of this uncertain life.

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