Poetry by Michael Martin

Three poems from Michael Martin, widely published on both sides of the Atlantic


If there ever was any virtue ‘back then’
can you find out where
and bring a bunch of it back to us?
Surely it would have left a bit of itself behind.
Take this gun.
Wound what gets in the way.
Bring back a darling relic for our village.
If we love it
it’ll probably be because it reminds us of ourselves.
If we hate it, the poets will probably say wait
a little longer.
And if we ignore it
we go on our merry way
then someone will lift it out of the dumpster
and sculpt a statue from it
and we’ll pass it in the square
and it can watch us strolling our children
as we carry the groceries home.


Who isn’t a soldier
slogging from one meaningless battle to the next
marching their mind into the surf every now
and then so a sea might take it back, pining
for a wide meadow of dull routine after something
nasty goes down like the doctor finding
the tumor against the spleen.
Oh, this is dark stuff.
We don’t seem built for light and speed,
falling to our knees in parking lots
remembering a first touch and a last touch
but everything in-between all mush-mush
seems to only tumble the life forward until we get
old and begin meaning everything we say.
Yet shadows show up to make cool any glade
next to some river where one can wait it out
and should a big wash of white wing appear
in the trees those will be angels doing only what
angels can do, appear and disappear.
I hear my grandmother calling me home —
            Come home and join my drum circle.
            Don’t get rid of your xylophone.
            Serve everyone before yourself
            and knock the mud off your boots
            before you enter the house
            and did you know man has always
            shared this earth with continents of ice?


Anyone with a sky can find their way home.
The star that saw Rembrandt dead broke
and painting himself as a king was the same star
above the heiress parting with her Picasso
was the star reminding Rothko that silence is indeed accurate
was the star that told Miles he couldn’t play everything
only anything.
But the star that shone its light on a button
of my funeral jacket was nothing special.
It just sent light.
Not enough to light an ocean
for some Samaritan swimming toward a shipwreck
or enough to guide the Sisters of the Exalted Heart back
onto shore to divide some crumb.
It only lit up a tiny coat button
on a dude driving across the St. John’s river bridge
in his first car with a real sister laughing
at the Toyota in front of them
that had roped to its roof an electric generator
that operated the AC unit
crammed into the car’s back window
            and what a shame
                        if all of that didn’t add up to a little something.

About the contributor

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is the author of Extended Remark: Poems From A Moravian Parking Lot (Por-tals Press). For decades his poetry has been published widely in literary magazines, including Poetry Ireland Review, the Moth, American Journal of Poetry, RHINO Poetry, Skylight 47 New Orleans Review, Carolina Quarterly & Berkeley Poetry Review. He lives in Raleigh, N.C..

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