Direction

By: Carolyn Martin

Mt. St. Mary Academy, Watchung, NJ, 1971

That night when I stood on the chapel steps––

the tower bell chiming 8 o’clock and teenage girls fleeing

study hall, ready to explode into camaraderie before

dorm lights dimmed at ten––I pulled my wool shawl tight

against the autumn wind playing with my veil

and tracked a blurred tail light down Terrill Road,

making a right at Woodland Drive and, I wanted to believe,

finding Route 35, passing Mayer’s Bar where my uncle dulled

his veteran pain, to Russell Street where my mother soothed aching feet

with scandals in The Daily News, while my Dad went delirious

as Jackson cleared the fence in the Yankees’ bottom of the ninth

and I could almost see our dusty baseball field where boys

and I smacked scuffed balls on humid summer days, playing out

dramas of our own, but there was no going home, I’d been schooled,

after final vows professed a future of dogmas and routines

I could barely wrap my heart around and I could hear my mother say

you made your bed, sleep in it, had she known how restlessness

belied the promises of peace on that night when Jersey stars

witnessed poverty and obedience embracing me easily,

but even God didn’t have the grace to hint that love, a curiosity,

would tatter chastity and land me here in Oregon––decades after

breaking covenants I banked my journey on––with memories muting

crickets and randy cats and a partner dimming our bedside lamp,

freeing me to hear girls shouting across dorm rooms,

my parents mumbling their goodnights, and a red tail light

revving up to make a swift U-turn on a windy road somewhere.


Carolyn Martin, blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 200 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.

Reflective Engagement

  1. The Intersection of Memory and Present Choices: The poem intricately ties together past memories with the speaker's present circumstances, highlighting how our past decisions and experiences shape who we become. Reflect on a pivotal decision in your own life that has significantly influenced your current path. How do you navigate the interplay between the nostalgia for what was and the acceptance of what is? Consider the ways in which reflecting on past choices can inform your understanding of yourself and your aspirations for the future.
  2. Commitment and Identity: The speaker reflects on the commitments made in youth and how these promises—to others and to oneself—shape one's identity and life direction. Think about a commitment you've made that has profoundly impacted your sense of self and your journey. How has this commitment tested, challenged, or reinforced your beliefs and values? Explore the concept of commitment not just as a promise to adhere to but as a dynamic component of your personal growth and evolution.
  3. The Concept of Home and Belonging: Throughout the poem, there's a poignant exploration of the concept of home—both as a physical place and a state of being. Reflect on your own definition of home and belonging. How has this idea evolved over time, especially in light of life’s transitions and the paths you've chosen? Contemplate the emotional and spiritual dimensions of home and how these influence your sense of identity and belonging in the world.

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