Carolyn Martin – Two Poems



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 Newport Bay
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 height and girth and estimate my two-door car
can fit three – four if they wouldn’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.

For The Twelve-Year-Old Who Won The Bubble Gum

Blowing Contest at a VFW Picnic

All it took was months of chewing sweetness out
and puckering her lips for her to grab shyness
by the hand and hop up on the stage.
Picnic tables froze as pale pink globes
eclipsed her face and melted into cheers

when a dusty Vet placed a silver dollar
in her hand with purple-heart respect.
He nudged her for a victory jog around
the burnt-brown lawn passed rowdy kids
in bathing suits and parents lazing in the sun.

That’s it. No dramatic twists or other facts.
Just a kid who could not write or dance
or draw or sing, ditching bashfulness
for her first first-place win.

Funny how that memory snuck in
as I was gathering my garden gloves.
Chores can wait, it said, and begged me for a poem.
No fancy words or tropes or melodies.
Just simple lines, it said, about a girl
practicing a year to earn a breath of fame.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

When St. Augustine was asked to define Time, he responded, “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” That’s how I feel about Beauty. Any definition is just out of reach. However, I know Beauty by how it makes me feel: The delight in watching a yellow maple leaf hit the ground just as the thunder claps. The awe of standing across from hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. The camaraderie of grief, the joy of achievement.

In whatever form it arrives, Beauty is that which stops time, collapses or expands space, and takes my breath away. It provokes genuine emotional responses that let me know I am alive.

Sting, the lead singer for The Police, once defined his artistic mission like this: “All my life I have tried to find the truth and make it beautiful.”

I would say, “In this life I keep trying to feel Beauty and to shape it into truthful words.”

After forty years in the business and academic worlds, Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, where she gardens, writes, and plays. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red-penciled “extremely maudlin,” she is amazed she has continued to write. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications including Persimmon Tree, Stirring, Naugatuck River Review, and Antiphon. Her second collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released in February 2015 by The Poetry Box, Portland, Oregon. More at: