From an associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has published poems in journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more about Carolyn at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.
Afghanistan’s Kyrgyz nomads survive in one of the most remote, high-altitude, bewitching landscapes on Earth. It’s a heavenly life – and a living hell.
– Michael Finkel, “Stranded on the Roof of the World”
National Geographic, February 2013
Who knew a world where no one’s ever seen
a tree and most kids die before they’re five?
There’s no road to bring a doctor in –
or vegetables or books or news below
these untamed camps at 14,000 feet.
Parents swathe their pain in opium,
find little joy in much of anything.
They’re off again through late June snow
with herds of sheep and goats, with cranky yaks
bearing everything they own. Four times
a year they search for rarities of grass,
one week above a freeze. Suddenly,
I’m a kid caught in Jersey snow, shoveling
a path across three drifting roads to find
the court beneath the playground’s white.
I need to break from winter’s bind
by carving one clear lane to net and board.
Even if clunky boots slow my glide
and raw hands fail to score, I know
survival’s here: in the joy of play and …
Memories freeze. I’m teetering on
the rooftop of the world where vicious winds
could hurl my ball across the glaciered rills
and people dream of cars. Here a Kyrgyz girl
survives by chasing scraggly hens. A boy
crayons his life with colors cracked and bleached.
Inside a yurt, a toddler barely breathes.
Mothers cry for roads. Summer snow still stings.
I need to find this journalist who knows
a horse costs fifty sheep and yaks can drown
each year in rivers snow-swelled and mean.
I need to ask if nomad girls have learned
to read or smile. Do boys fly off the roof?
Did that toddler die? I need to know
if he can gauge how many shovels
it would take to make the dying stop.
Originally published in The Axe Factory. This publication is defunct.
Breaking News: God’s Rewilding Plan Leaked
According to a source high up and anonymous,
God will announce this week He’s rewilding the earth.
He confesses He should have rested on day six
while He was on a cosmic roll, and laments
He missed the signs: Bipeds, blinkered
by supremacy, would try to tame every thing.
He admits to verte- and invertebrates
His human trial flopped. Therefore, next Sunday
pandas, peacocks, and silver backs will play
in Times Square and caravans of antelope race
across Pennsylvania Avenue. Every boundary line,
dam, trellis, and mended wall will rumble down.
Steel, asphalt, and concrete will be banished heretofore.
So will summerizing gardens everywhere.
Believe what you like about our superiority,
God made a mistake. He should have advised
Adam and Eve not to procreate and lounged them
beneath the apple tree. They would have spent
their ten-score years in blissful innocence
rather than sweat through parental anxiety.
Between you and me, I’d support a God
as transparent as this. If His plan succeeds,
find me hanging out – waggishly naked
and wild – on the edge of some post-paradise
with monkeys, giraffes, dolphins,
elephants, koalas, and birds of every size.
Originally published in Unearthed.