Casualty – by Carolyn Martin

Route 26 through the Coast Range to Seaside, Oregon

Miles of mute taillights
and a woman crushed beneath
a logging truck.
Her soul clicks off
her Honda’s seatbelt
and rises through
fog-wet firs,
confounded by the ruckus
she’s stirred up.
She shouts apologies
to the drivers cursing
the delay, tries
to explain how her mind,
mangling tears with regret,
swerved toward
the New Jersey grave
where her mother’s ashes
stir beneath the autumn sun.
That’s where I was, she cries
frantically to campers/cars/SUVs;
over flares of aggravation and prayers.
That’s where I was,
she insists, shouting
words I never said.
My mother’s dead.
Lanes blurred.


when the fireplace and cups
of tea soothed the anxiety
of the five-hour stall,
we still don’t know
the how or who.
A flannel shirt, jogging
to the barricades,
reported back to lanes
of windows rolling down:
woman dead/gas spill/
unpredictable delays.
By the time we eased
through, nothing left
but road-shine, shattered trees,
and curiosity about
a woman someone loved.
Tonight’s news? Mute.
What we hear––and hearing
is all we can do––
Western gulls flapping
past our balcony,
relentless waves scouring
the shore, and––
if we lean in close enough ––
predictable fog shrouding
a sun straining to set.

Carolyn MartinCarolyn 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. Find out more at