December 26, 2022
We knew we went wrong when
untrampled weeds mocked Dead End,
and left us no choice but to leave the river’s edge
with its bursting cat o’nines and claw up hill
to asphalt’s surety where a woman off-leashes her mutt
so he can race around our feet and she calms us down
with He says you’re not a threat and, as apology,
offers a hike to pristine views of riverfalls
cascading down cliffs of gray basalt.
And that’s how it goes: a dead end stops us in time
to intersect with a future we had no notion of:
a trek through juniper and gravelly sand, over
ragged rocks shifting shapes and depths,
demanding backward descents and when I protest can’t,
must demands my feet carve out hesitant footholds
while that aggravating dog zigzags
down-up-around without a second’s glance.
How old are you? the woman asks,
and my seventy-six prompts No way!
and cheers me on for more-to-come: jumping
slender streams to land on slips of muddy ground
with helpful memories of a feisty ten-year-old
climbing trees, switch-backing hills without a fall.
Ends are never dead if futures show up,
I convince myself and like having thought
that thought and promise the psychic pooch––
eavesdropping in the sun––I mean to write it down
and he pants curiosity, waiting for me to steady
shaky legs before he asks how I would grade
risky scramblings for a twenty-foot cascade.
Cline Falls, Redmond, Oregon
© the author
by Carolyn Martin
From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 175 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Currently, she is the book review editor for the Oregon Poetry Association. For more, go to www.carolynmartinpoet.com