browsing category: Winter 22-23

PoetryWinter 22-23

What Comes Next — Nell Smith

What Comes Next

Phoenix, Arizona: it’s January and it’s 65 degrees. He brings me a mug of warm coffee with just the right amount of cream and we sit out on pool chairs, all broken-slated and sun-bleached, watching the daily show of the cactus wren plucking cochineal bugs from the prickly pear in tiny bursts of fuchsia.

It’s easy now to forget about summer bearing down, the stories about fried eggs on the sidewalk. These are days I can believe each grey branch of the mesquite tree might be resurrected with spring leaves. And sometimes I think I don’t ask for so much—a lover who makes me feel wanted, creatures going about their own business, the potential for regeneration—and sometimes I think this is so much to ask for.

Coyotes echo the sound of passing sirens and I know these days are limited. The bathtub ring around Lake Mead grows thick and pale. I’ve seen water rise like a soul above the canals and the end of more than one marriage. Summer will come, days will blister, and nights will swell with heat. 

And yet. Delicate snakes are nesting in the cushions at the bottom of the old dry swimming pool. Today, we are good to each other and I think we will continue to try being good to each other. The cactus wren is off somewhere singing like a passing train. This year, at least, the mesquite will come out of dormancy and the prickly pear will bear fruit.


Nell Smith is an interdisciplinary writer and field biologist whose work has appeared in EcoTheo Review, Camas, Pidgeonholes, Hobart, and elsewhere. She grew up in Maine and completed her M.F.A. at the University of Wyoming where she earned a joint degree in Creative Writing and Environment & Natural Resources. She lives in Arizona with her partner and her cat, Goose.
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