Essay in EcoTheo Review

A short excerpt from my essay “Convergence” from the Summer 2022 issue of EcoTheo Review:

“The Gila River—opaque as butterscotch and laced with agricultural runoff—is ornamented with styrofoam cups, discarded truck tires and diapers engorged with river water. The vegetation is thick so it’s easiest to move in the river. I slide down the slick bank past the prints of a black bear whose movements I echo. 

The calf-deep water is cool and ripples shimmy away from my footsteps like the fish that curl into eddies as I walk downstream. The Gila is one of the longest western rivers. Not so long ago, I could have floated from the headwaters in New Mexico through to  the Gulf of California in a kayak or raft. Now, water is siphoned off into agriculture fields, reservoirs and canals that turn the Gila into a trickle halfway through its 500-mile journey towards the Colorado River. By the time it reaches this valley southeast of Phoenix, the Gila, whose headwaters are often called the birthplace of wilderness, is no more than an intermittent stream. My hiking boots saturate and sand fills their mesh as I wade, listening to the slur of my steps mix with the ensemble of birds calling along the river’s corridor. Under the shaded arbor of tamarisk, I pause. I am quiet. Sometimes you can only find a thing by being still.”

To read the full essay, purchase the issue (or subscribe!) by clicking here.

Two Summer Publications: Camas & Pidgeonholes

POINT COUNTS AND SHIFTING BASELINES
in Camas Magazine

Photograph of the magazine cover with a painting of a Joshua Tree against a bright blue background.

Can we celebrate the wild just beyond the doorstep without conflating it with the wildness of places far from any doors? If we expect the wild to adapt to our cities and our lifestyles, where do we adapt to theirs. We must leave space and silence and open places for them to build their own nests, make their own paths through the desert, and communicate with each other in whisper songs.

Purchase the issue to read in full

THE FIRST TIME in Pidgeonholes

“He sounds like one of the mice that live in the house I will move to the first time I try to leave him, the ones I will set hard metal traps for in the kitchen. I will hear the bitter snap and squeak of them at night when I try to fall asleep but instead replay a recent conversation in which he tells me I am easy to love.”

Read the full piece online

Image of a gray concrete building with a white curtain blowing out of an open window. Over this image is the following text: Nonfiction. THE FIRST TIME by Nell Smith.

New Publication: What Happened on December 21st, 2019: A Retrospective

New words up today on Essay Daily!

…I had been working on an essay about fragments: fragments of bone, fragments of light, and what the space between these fragments can embody. I’m learning to pay attention to these spaces. A lot can happen in the subtext, in the distance between things, in the space of what is left out, in the time between December 21st and March 16th…

Read the full essay

New Publications: Lunar Eclipse off Exit 88 & What Gould’s Magpie Has Stolen

Two poems up now in the latest issue of Minding Naturea publication from the Center for Humans & Nature.

Spring_Cover_MindingNature_May19_v7-cover3
Cover Art by Courtney Mattison

LUNAR ECLIPSE OFF EXIT 88

Somewhere in Oklahoma,
speeding through scrubby darkness,
we pulled off the highway on Exit 88…

Read the full poem

WHAT GOULD’S MAGPIE HAS STOLEN

For its feathers, the prism of light
that broke its blacks into iridescence…

Read the full poem

New Publication: Ode to a Rock Dove

Published this month in Entropy‘s “The Birds” series

ODE TO A ROCK DOVE
—For JPD

You’re right.
A blackbird taken apart
by a raptor is not the same

as the nestling pigeon,
wet from rain,
run into the

clogged freeway
by slavish,
hulking cars.

And of course it was a pigeon—
rat-of-the-sky,
pest,
dirty dirty bird—

call it
what they will,
you wish the authorities

would restore its name to dove,
dove, with all the potential
of cliches.

For isn’t that part of it?
We are a nation
in love with the idea

of pulling oneself up
by the bootstraps,
even as we call them pigeons,

even as we crush their bodies
as we inch forward dumbly
in our commute of tedium.

This ode is to the bird
that hadn’t yet grown feathers
with which to rescue itself

(and was given
no second chances)
so join me, reader,

with the same empathy
extended to the underdog,
and imagine its life if lived:

Imagine the search
for cold fries under a table
in pursuit of sustenance and survival

Imagine the spin and flash
of emerald and royal purple
in the drive to mate and remake

Imagine the power
of full-fledged wings
in the rush of rising up

up above traffic
up above streets
up above city

to look down on all of us.

Download the poem