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December 26, 2022

Dead End


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

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