Josh Martin



A cool breeze seeps in

through the patio screen at the speed of

smoke during a summer dusk

as the distance wraps itself up—sleepily

in a vapor blanket

rumbles lowly, spills out

over olive colored hills on its way

into the room I sit dryly inside of—shielded from its weeping

emptying myself, setting free

the musty ruminations of the day

dissipating into plumes of vacant static

collapsing the scaffolding inside me

to make space in my lungs for that sweet, stony liquid

as I quietly pass away at will

pass away

the lie that I feel

so bad.




I heard my father chopping

out back

that ancient Maple in the center of the yard

the helicopters dropping

with every sticky thud;

I shuddered.


The tree we used to hide behind

home base in our games of tag, I

had to keep it standing, so

I scurried to its aid.

I looked up at the leaves

as muffled sunlight dripped between

its yellows and greens, the cracks in its face

heavy swaying shadows swallowing the yard

outstretched fingers. Sap scented arms


and he hollered, “Joshua!”

unsettling my gut

his eyebrows raised, his dirty gloves

handed me an axe. I took a swing.



I was stuck

in the throat of the backyard path

as the dampened breath of April rushed


over and along-side the shoddy tin shed


tugging at the buckthorn branches

that thwapped and scraped against its hull


at dusk

holding me—distracted


while my dainty kid sister slipped

out through the sliding screen door


calling me to supper, skipping


taken, too, it seemed,


by the warming winds that wet

the winter’s frozen tongue


on their way out to me,

afraid to lift my feet


and be whisked away with the leaf scraps, the cold

the hopeful un-bloomed bulbs.




We would take the ghosted road

just past Hoover

gravel paved past the power-box gate

pebbles strumming the bumper       

as we rumbled snugly into the shallow glade

we’d make our way to the far corner of the lot

finding some dark to park in

under the rusty lamp we

broke with a stone when we were small

croaking Mr Mojo Risin’

through the burnt tea-smog

torpid, torch lit faces

quieted behind sandblasted glass.

The hiss of the reservoir rolling

slowly over the dam

leaked in through the windows, only

slightly cracked open—hoping for something fresh

just to settle for and old familiar musk

and we sat in that spot, highly inspired

eyes stirred in the thick of nimbus mists

blind to the sickle moon, the sky and time

shielded by steel from starlight,          still.




Walking back from the Belgian, suf-

ficiently limbered with a wobbly strut until

I stumble on a slab of sidewalk jutting up

lifted by unruly

roots protruding through and

I’m reminded

of the hurting and malnourished earth and

dirt beneath the concrete

the stony parts we plucked

for prison walls and churches

the wildness we whittled toward submission

the weeds we squeezed into medicines and spirits

now reaching between the breaches and

uglying up my street

squeaking for my sympathies but barking

up the wrong tree, so to speak, since

their putrid superfluity and

inhuman fumings are buried for a reason.



Josh Martin, born and raised in central NJ, is an Italian-American poet writing since he was 15. He received a BA in Communication at DeSales University, where he was a frequent contributor to the campus literary magazine, and was a two-time winner of the annual campus Battle of the Bands as a solo rap artist. Josh currently runs a monthly Poetry Workshop in Fairmount, and his poetry has been featured in The Philadelphia Secret Admirer and The Weal.