Carolyn Martin


Coach Class

In case of a sudden loss…masks will drop…
Secure yours first…then assist...

A thousand times: Stow bags. Snap belts.
Friday nights going home. 38,000 feet.
Trapped in the middle seat.

The pilot warns of storm delays.
Sit back, relax, enjoy...
200 minutes of turbulence.

A week of words sticks in my throat.
Faces fade. Five cities. Five days.
Fifty ways to lead with confidence.

Applause dies. Crowds clear. 
What did I say?I can’t recall.
Drop your masks? Assist? Relax?

Bald head in front of me reclines.
(No work tonight, my laptop whines.)
The windowed Texan snores.

Aisled grandma biblically assures,
God cares for little birds.
(Were those the gospel words?)

Sit back, relax, enjoy this trinity.
I can’t recall, I just cannot recall
what’s more to lose than sudden loss

when voices shout, Tighten belts. Hold on!
A hungry sinkholed sky tosses trays,
drips angry drinks from luggage bins.

Bald head bolts upright. Texan gags.
Grandma grabs my hand and reeks anxiety.
Relax, enjoy the loss of gravity.

It’s Friday night a thousand times
on wary birds that romp with thunderclouds.
I pray that God recalls their crests
tonight. Let not a feather fall.       

 

    

 

Let us now praise

Altar all things common, rare.
Candle light the room.
Bow to words you can believe.
Begin the litany of praise.

Praise parents falling out of bed
bone-sore, spilling lives
in factories and cubicles.                                       
Praise children off to school—
backpacking unopened books,
homework rarely done. 

Praise teachers who read
through tantrums and hacky coughs;
pencils which can’t straighten
a line or shape a letter’s curve.
Praise coaxing out;
coaxing comfort in.

Praise off-ramp signs that cry,
Will work for food. Mother sick.
I’m 68. Small change is good.
Praise windows rolling down,
coins touching hard palms.
Praise stranger-smiles and half-mad frowns.

Praise everything turned sacred by a touch,
turned scared by lack of touch,
turned scarred by brutal touch.
Priests and daily bread.
Orphans on a gun-shot street.
The beaten beaten down.

Praise all truths—twisted, muddied,
ranted against, and hated for.
Praise raging peace and fragile war,
the Judas and the Christ,
lighted shadows and shadowed light.

Praise candle flames.
Praise cleansing flames.        

 

 

 

Gratuity

The cabby’s black eyes bounce
between the car-clogged street
and his rearview.

My family? In Palestine? 
Are they all right?

Chopped to bits,
my question hangs between
his swaying beads and me.

See what I have seen,
his eyes grip mine.
Grandfather—in his hut.
My father—in our yard.
An uncle—on the road.
One shot. One shot. One shot.
Soldiers laugh. Children cry.
How can we be all right?

All I wanted was a Yes.
A chat about
the desert’s hot and cold,
a father herding goats,
a mother raising bread and sons.
I wanted pleasantries
to pass the time.
Not the cruel thrift of war.

A thousand lights turn green
before the practicality
of luggage, tickets, fare.

Port of Authority, he smiles,
unwinding from the driver’s seat.
I fumble through my wallet’s folds
and double his gratuity—
admitting only to myself,
I should not ask
until I want to know.

 

 

 

Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering

It well behooves the son of Abraham
to understand the voice his father hears.
My mother learned this long ago:
that Yahweh’s laugh is always last and bears
more gifts than hearts can hold.

Heaven has its humor, so she claims,
and speaks again the laughter of my name.

To worship, was his ploy—that strong old man.
With men and donkey left a sight behind,
and ram nor thicket in our point of view,
we started on our holocaustal climb
to pay my father’s Lord his chosen due.

Naiveté is a blessing on such days.
It watched him altar wood with fire and grace,
missed the trembling in his chosen hands,
the sighing in his old man’s chosen face.
It saw the sun caress his blazing knife
and heard a voice call for the sacrifice.

Heaven has its humor, so they say.
(The angels laughed at last in father’s eyes.)

But still I try to grasp that chosen day,
to wash the smell of rams out of my mind,
to see the joke in flames that I survived.

A test, is all my father ever says.
Inside our tent my mother laughs my name.
They hold the stars and sands as their rewards.
But I, I cannot laugh. I fear unchosen fame
and the presents of my parents’ laughing Lord.

 

 

All these poems first appeared in Carolyn Martin, Finding Compass (Portland, OR: Queen of Wands Press, 2011, with the exception of Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering, which first appeared in the publication Sisters Today.

 

 

 

 

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, writing and photography. Her fourth poetry collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. Find out more about Carolyn at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.