The Take

Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem or flash fiction piece that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio or fiction piece in our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a co-editor about why the poem or flash fiction story stood out.

Evan Nicholls


Contrary to what the newsreels say I feel
cold on the inside I came West to plunge
my body into the Pacific They call me ​Death
Toll Rising ​This is not my first name My real
name was whispered to me by a paper-dry
leaf hopping & dragging like a flightless bird
She was my mother These are all my cousins
I am holding my breath for: domestic cats
alpacas bears pigs ponies squirrels & ashen
dogs You cannot tell the jackrabbits from the
pumas from the goats inside of me We are all
one species of smoke ​Deadliest in History ​Now
the people in shining jackets call for hoses &
buckets of foam over my head They send hot
cell signals through my belly & I watch them
the whole time They do not recognize a son
chock full of animals If I waited on the ridge
for the proper light would they finally see me
call me down by my first name I want to hear
the words from my fathers mouths: ​Drought
our soft child stop picking at the floor &
sweeten into the big blue ocean you were
meant to be But life is so unforgiving Say
you want the water & you become the sky

Author’s Statement

This poem was born out of photos of the fires in California this past year. I found myself particularly affected by images popping up in articles of animals backdropped by flames and smoke. Then I started to wonder why my empathy worked that way: Why was I quicker to feel for the dogs, cats and trees than the actual people? The wildfire’s persona sprung from these thoughts about how we regard animals and the inanimate. 

From the Poetry Editors
The persona in this poem speaks to us through literary devices such as animal symbolism — goats, rabbits, and pumas — and grabbing imagery.  Evan Nicholls demonstrates a skill for language with the surety of his voice as well as his rhythm.  We fell in love with this line: “But life is unforgiving Say/ you want the water & you become the sky.