National Poetry Month 2023: Day 11

One of the poets who read at First Friday last week, Tamara Nicholl-Smith, really impressed me with her work. In particular I enjoyed this poem here, which is seeing its publishing debut here on the blog tonight. Tamara also teaches for Writespace and has a wonderful-sounding workshop coming up very soon: Making Space for the Muse, which is a great way to jumpstart your writing, in case you’re looking for that. (And honestly, who isn’t? I think I know exactly one writer who doesn’t genuinely need a class like this, and it’s not me.)

Anyway, here is her poem. Do enjoy!

To What Light Will We Eventually Yield?

Alligator Alley extends out of the mouth of Naples,
a long tongue of road that unfurls flat and stretches towards
coast and canals beneath a canopy of orange groves and
cypress domes, draped in a suffocation of Spanish moss.
At 50 miles-per-hour, the landscape is a Bob Ross painting
of pine and palm bristles blurring against the dry sky.
In February, the drive time between Naples and Immokalee
doubles and locals know to pause once the light turns green.
It’s pensioner season in the everglades. They arrive with
the turkey vultures and the white throated sparrow.

Bromeliads pass in a wink of pink, their bright
and pointed bracts frame the billboards that
punctate the highway with promises.  Retired
Barbie Dreamhouse® from the 200’s. New phase available!
New construction! New Golf Course! New Fitness Center!
“New! New! New!”  a curated bird call to the brittle boned
who seek relief from dirt singed cities, from the dinge-tinted,
perma-slush of exhaust and snow and sand and salt.
“Welcome to: Golden Gate Estates, The Groves at Orange Blossom,
Skysail, Valencia Trails.”

It’s always sunny this time of year, doused in a watercolor light,
that renders everything pastel. A Cracker Barrel
and golf-cart studded antechamber to the afterlife.
The grass is always neatly mowed, the neighbors
always smile, their brochure smiles, and wave
on their way to Friday fish fry, book club, or bingo.
The subdivision cul-de-sacs bloom, petals on an asphalt flower.
By the car park entry gate, a heron sweeps its wing and bows in welcome,
while from the fronds of the bottle palm the monk parakeet repeats
“This is the life. This is the life.”

Each day is scripted as vacation:
.   spend the morning shelling on Sanibel Island,
.   the afternoon gently rocking on a catamaran,
.   then wade along the water’s edge in anticipation of sunset.
Two hundred years from now,
a plastic coke bottle will rise out of the once-was swamp
next to the preserved remains of a Great Owl, and a
petrified cypress branch. These houses will have disintegrated,
the thin drywall and adobe-colored facades subsumed, 
by the unfirm earth, erased by mildew and decay.

All those pennies put away, all those years giving to your 401k,
all the hours spent doing something you’d rather not,
lead here, to the sun-glittered promise of a paper umbrella paradise,
where the temperature never dips below fifty,
and the air settles itself a pale pashmina on the slow shoulders of
the arthritis-ridden and the anemic.
The eternal sand is soft and white as bone.
There is no mention of June’s gathering winds,
hovering, a glowering coil above the uncertain sea,
a panther, circling the blue calm. 

In the unwinding day,
we yield to the briny sweep of salt song.
The tide gently washes over our creased feet
as vermillion clouds fade into vesper-light. 
Under the darkening sky, we come face to face
with the authenticity of bone and vein.
Blue lines luminesce beneath the thinning
sconce of skin, grow brighter as the night deepens.
On this shore — lesser moons
faces turned toward the waning lamp of dream. 


Tamara Nicholl-Smith’s poetry has appeared on two Albuquerque city bus panels, one Albuquerque parking meter, various radio shows, a spoken-word classical piano fusion album, and in publications, such as the Mutabilis Press anthologies Enchantment of the Ordinary and Chaos Dive Reunion (forthcoming), Kyoto JournalThe Examined Life JournalCatholic Arts Today, and America.  She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas in Houston and is an instructor for Writespace Houston. She enjoys puns and likes her bourbon neat. 

2 thoughts on “National Poetry Month 2023: Day 11

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s