carolyn martin


Foil crackling? No. That scratching sound
        announces grating news:
                Another bird is caught.

Our stovepipe prisons small black wings
        lured down the chimney, down
                the flue by some dark impulse, down

until their pleas outwit my reasoning.
        They should mean brighter things
                like presents, cookies, cake unwrapped,

not this unset trap I’m dared to spring.
        I know the drill: unfasten door, dislodge the pipe,
                persuade the flagging wings to flight.

But still I fear imprisoned things—
        fear this bird exploding into light
                will miss the door and flail around

the kitchen walls more frantic than before.
        What’s to choose? Its slow dark death
                or, perhaps, another kind of death.

What the Stone Letters Said

Honorable father:
Greetings from the city
where trees cannot breathe
and ash sticks like rice
to concrete streets.
My back bows to men
who blot out history.
There is no light to my days.
With a thousand tears
I wash your river stone.

Honorable son:
Today the fog hangs hard
over the river’s edge.
My knees bend in wet sand.
My fingers ache. Your mother cries
for your return, demands
to find the smooth
in cracks. She turns her back.
She cannot mine your presence
in the heart of stone.

Turn me in your hands,
you who send me from
river beds and crevices.
Trace the chinks gashed red
or grey and feel each edge:
your mother’s crinkled eyes,
your father’s craggy cheeks,
your children far from home.
Press more than words deep
into my unpolished stone.

The Bed Is Still Unmade

the indent warm where
you lay last night and lied,
There is no moving ‘toward’!—

claiming no one else
beyond these walls,
beyond my smile.

Your words fell flat.
I cried and turned my back.
What’s more to say?

This morning strips darkness
off our sheets and spread,
tossing it—balled and tied—

into the burnt backyard
where lilies lie
browned in summer heat.

(“Caught” first appeared in Autumn Sky, then in Finding Compass from Queen of Wands Press. “What the Stone Letters Said” also appeared in Finding Compass.)

From Roman Catholic nun and Associate Professor of English in New Jersey to international business trainer, Carolyn Martin claims a rich life of teaching, traveling, and writing. She spent sixteen years in the classroom and nineteen becoming intimate with every major hotel chain and airport across North America. Retiring in 2007, she returned to her first love: poetry. Her poems have appeared in Christian Century, Drash: Northwest Mosaic, Naugatuck River Review, and Science Poetry. Her first collection, Finding Compass, was released in July by Queen of Wands Press. Currently, she is president of the board of VoiceCatcher, a non-profit that nurtures and promotes women writers and artists in the Portland, Oregon metro area.