Carolyn Martin

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has published poems in more than 125 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at


On the highway to Milwaukie, Oregon,
ten grown-up geese, unperturbed by the splash
of passing cars, are hitchhiking west.

Perhaps to the stream behind McGrath’s Fish House
or Westmoreland’s lake or Crystal Springs.
Any place would do beyond this four-lane road
struggling to slough off pounding rain.

The leader sticks out her beak and raises
her right wing. Her entourage stretches to full height.
Three days of gusty storms and they’d rather walk than fly.

I brake my car 50 feet beyond and blink hazard lights. 
A window halfway down, I back up to calculate
their girth. My two-door car, I estimate,
can fit three – four if they don’t mind the squeeze.

When they decline to split – family loyalty
personified – I drive away smiling to myself.
If four hop in, six stay behind –
which reminds me of a Christmas song
about six geese doing something
somewhere in the English countryside.

(Previously published in Peacock Journal.)

Along the Desert View Trail on Mount San Jacinto

Palm Springs, California

Maybe it was the wind at 8500 feet
or my sneakers navigating slushy snow
or the cloudless sun that kept the chill at bay.

Maybe it was the Western gray –
the wildest squirrel to cross our paths –
on her midden trail. Or spalls of rock

spilling down mountainsides. Or hikers
dropping packs to share their lives.
Maybe it was nothing more than my mind

insisting that close-ups concentrate,
panoramas amaze. No matter why,
persistent words echoed every turn:

Stop to notice and you’re saved.
A shooting star in seven syllables,
an epigram designed to stall my pace.

Of course, attention must be paid –
for astonishment and memories
and photographs bound for my next book –

and I’m adept at paying on the spot.
It’s the second thought that stumped.
I didn’t know I needed to be saved.

From what – or for? I ask the melting path.
The dinge of earth with all its reckless noise?
The awe-filled grace of clarity? Vistas missed?

Maybe answers hide in crevices
where lizards sleep or in nests built high
above a bobcat’s reach. I’ll turn those words

slowly in my hand, then bounce them
off the canyon’s walls. Some sense may echo
back before they dismay again.

(Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Thin Places – CA: Kelsay Books, 2017).

The Whisperers

October in Bend, Oregon

Just off Cascade Lakes Road –
past Tetherow, before the Seventh Mountain Inn –
the rusty “Trail Rides” sign and horses no one’s hired yet.
I have to slow my over-joyful feet from slipping
on muddy leaves as I review what I know:
Horses kiss by sharing breath. They’re afraid of many things.

An acorn brown and a dusty white mosey
toward the redwood fence to size me up
for something more than frozen straw.
We share eyes, breathe whiteness out, take time
to quiet down. Upfront, I admit
I’ve only strokes for their necks and a camera
for memories. They don’t seem to care.

They pose beyond requirement, listening
to why I loved Trigger as a kid,
slept in cowboy boots and chaps,
made my parents stop for pony rides.

I complain it took two days
to comprehend Bend’s round-abouts.
Trekking woodland trails must be easier,
I tease, than guessing rights-of-way and yields.

Snow has whited out Mt. Bachelor, I report.
Riparian is on my new words list.
And yesterday – the joke’s on me –
I thought the “Take Out” sign on the Deschutes
meant a restaurant not kayaks and canoes.

I want to tell them tomorrow I head home
and how they would love the cloud-smudged trees
with understories of oranges and golds.
Their eyes begin to glaze. I promise
to return – after snowmelts and possibilities
of spring – and take them for a ride.
I stop for breath. They ease away.

(Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Thin Places – CA: Kelsay Books, 2017.)

Dear Zion Canyon

Dear Zion Canyon,

This is just to say thanks for Patriarchs
and peregrines, for rock-carved skies
and angels landing in your clouds;

for hanging gardens climbing through
Navajo sandstone, for maidenhair
wreathing through your river’s writhe;

for staircases stepping down from Bryce:
a paradox of deserts, floods, droughts,
and terraces that end without a thought;

for prince’s plumes and penstemon,
for the checkerboard I scaled as aspen
jittered gold in this early frost;

and, most of all, for straightening my bent –
the hazard of my poet’s mind – to wrest
a narrative from your lyrical intent.

(Previously published in Gnarled Oak.)

A Little League Game in Kit Carson Park

Taos, New Mexico

The second inning’s in the books
and the Dodgers trail thirteen-zip.
Their pitcher, stretching every inch
of four-foot-nine, can’t find
the catcher’s mitt and fielders freeze
as Cubs shoot fireballs over heads
and steal bases standing up.
It’s one more massacre.

Yet, without being coached,
kindred folk on the winning side
start rooting for the underdogs:
for Gonzalez slipping off the mound;
for Moya striking out; for Serna, Siler,
Pope misjudging outfield flies.

When floodlights shock the field at 8:15,
the scoreboard blares 18-1.
Mercy on his mind, the ump calls it a night.
Chins up, Dodgers high-five Cubs and parents
march their troops toward ice cream and bed.

Meanwhile, beyond the cemetery fence,
Mrs. Carson sweeps away day’s dust
and Kit hangs up his rifle and buckskin.
They’ve seen games like this before
where numbers belie God-honest truth.

Tonight, as they review each kid passing
through the lights spilling from the field,
they cannot discriminate – despite
distinctive uniforms – who conquered whom.

(Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Thin Places – CA: Kelsay Books, 2017.)