THIS GROUND by NELL SMITH

For a time,

I forgot the skin of white pines,

chapped from Maine winters,

their sap seeping through the bark.

I forgot,

by loving the dogs of Guanaja

that barked from the docks

of stilt homes as I passed,

parting the water in a dinghy. 

By loving snow

crowding a spit in Alaska,

the stones cased in salt-stippled ice

calling attention

to each of my footsteps.

By loving rain rising as steam

from hot tarmac in Trinidad.

Soca music and carnival

saturating the night. 

From the ground

of this Arizonan desert

branches rise as the roots of the sky,

and I wonder now, what is the difference

between a hundred places and no place? 

I imagine drifting through

the archipelago of Maine islands,

raked up by the migration of glaciers,

over the ribs of shoals

until a backbone of spruce

emerges through fog,

smelling of salt and smoke,

and calls come:

come learn how much

of one mile you can see,

settle here between old timbers,

arched with honeysuckle,

pin your clothes to a line

that will stretch from there to here,

and let your old skins sigh

and spread their weary fibers. 


Originally from Maine, Nell Smith is a field biologist and writer currently based in Northern Arizona. Her poetry has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy, Hawk & Whippoorwill, Thin Air Magazine and Sky Island Journal. 

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