Carolyn Martin lives in Clackamas, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in publications throughout the US and UK, and her second collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released by The Poetry Box, Portland, Oregon, in 2015.
… locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of … the Infinite Whatever.
– Eric Weiner, “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer,” The New York Times, March 9, 2012
Who could plan such a thing?
Each time I happen upon myself –
squishing Pacific sand, scaling
Zion’s checkerboard or sitting
at my smudged computer screen –
I wonder how I appear without the courtesy
of email, call, or text; without a doorbell ring.
A business suit intrudes and rues
the loss of center stage. A Yankees’ cap cracks
gum and jokes with the cowboy hat screened
behind home plate. A nun-black veil guides
a distraught girl across the campus lawn.
This morning as my coffee brews,
I sit – amazed, bemused – and jot down
their commonalities: smile lines, high forehead;
hazel eyes tending green; the urge to make
things right when they don’t want to be.
Enmeshed in my multitudes,
I miss the bent babushka spitting
on the wet sidewalk near a moving pile of rags.
I ignore screams from sinking ships,
gun shots in diminished neighborhoods,
pains that seep through hard hats’ sweat.
I muff the quiddity of stars,
of frogs that listen with their mouths,
of belladonna, roses, feverfew.
If only I could close my eyes
and let the darkness concentrate,
I might hear the Infinite explain,
There’s more to you than you –
or something that approximates.
… the words for what I ate last night
as dinner progressed and friends probed
why I didn’t call when the stove top flamed
and the sump pump failed. I couldn’t bring myself
to explain their numbers frozen in a cell
resting on an ice cube tray.
And here’s more perplexity:
My long-term storage space overflows
with grade-school shame, teenage taunts,
resentments, blame tucked behind photographs
of my first love and snips of poems, hymns,
and prayers. As they escape, I confuse
the where and when of everything.
Yet there’s relief on mornings
when my coffee almost tastes the way it should
and the neighbor’s grey-striped cat shows up
to see if I’m still here. She doesn’t seem
to mind I can’t recall last night’s Good Wife
or make a dozen empty trips from room to room.
I offer her a nod and whisper words only
she can hear. Something about a poem
I wrote and can’t find anywhere.
Ready are you? What know you of ready?
If this were my final day on earth, I’d like to think
I’d be sitting at the kitchen table with my coffee mug,
watching the sun scramble through our winded firs,
hoping the squirrels and feral cats would walk
the backyard fence. I’d like to say goodbye.
No doubt I’d check the morning news – another night
of death-by-belief, natural and unnatural catastrophes,
three million souls adrift in un-homelands.
This misery, I’d comfort myself, will ease the letting go.
I would hear you open the bedroom door,
walk down the stairs – steady as any day
before – and look at me expectantly.
We would sit side-by-side, agreeing
there’s nothing useful in worrying,
nothing helpful in judgment or regret.
I’d memorize the cadence of your voice,
the sharpness of your deep brown eyes.
I’ll know them when we meet again.
Just so you understand, I am not afraid.
I’ve been there before. The fact remains
my last day may end tonight or in two dozen years.
For now, there’s nothing more to do than warm
my coffee up, cheer on the squirrels and cats,
and tell you I love who and where we are.
While earth counts up its scars, take my hand.
Let’s watch the sun break free above the firs.