DKM Photo

Diane K. Martin’s work has appeared in New England Review, Field, Poetry Daily, Crazyhorse, Zyzzyva, North American Review, Tar River Review, 32 Poems, and Third Coast, among others. She was awarded second place in the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize competition, judged by B.H. Fairchild, in 2004. She was nominated for and included in Best New Poets 2005. In 2006, she was semifinalist in the “Discovery”/ The Nation competition. She has received a Pushcart Special Mention. Recently, she won first prize in the Erskine J. Poetry prize awarded by Smartish Pace.

She lives in San Francisco and is a technical writer and editor. Her book, Conjugated Visits, recently finalist for National Poetry Series, will be published in Spring 2010 by Dream Horse Press.

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Diane K. Martin


Windham House Assisted Living

The strawberry shortcake arrives: a median strip

of angel food between two red freeways,

landscaped with a Cool Whip curl.


But fresh peaches and cream — he misses that, you hear

him say to three gray ladies who flank his table,

to the salt and pepper, to the pastel prints on the walls.


Could he taste the words, a summer morning,

rich and sweet, sun smearing the east, dripping

its syrup onto the dark shade of leaf


as he reached up to pick the peach, warm as her

pillowed cheek, and rinsed it under the porch tap

where the milkbox held its cool, glassed treasure?


How the peaches seem to stand for everything,

and how maybe if he could taste one again, it

would be okay to die and be done.


But no, he misses peaches. The rest is in your mind,

you who will conclude your visit and walk off,

your life still sticky, and you in the juice and thick of it.


First published in Tar River Review



La Vie Intérieure

The Champs Elysées along the dining room wall

narrows to a point in the distance where

green figures stroll under parasols on a field of cream

as if perspective could persuade you

of something beyond this wall

other than the boiler room churning heat.


You are the boy, slicked back, seal-black hair,

in front of the new ’52 Ford—

framed forever on the Wurlitzer—

about whom they whisper they tried everything.

At night you lie tangled in sheets;

a car coughs, complains, turns over.

It will corrode with weather and rock salt

in Wanamaker’s parking lot

until the tow truck comes in spring.

The air conditioner burrs on through winter.

It is Christmas. The Yule log on TV

burns and is not consumed.


First published in Hayden’s Ferry Review



The Year the Fathers Went Missing

We hardly noticed at first, despite the indelible

thumbprints on skull tissue, the intricate scars

and excoriations on that muscle called the heart.


It was exceptionally quiet: a lack of lamentation,

an absence of rending. There was the guilt, of course,

its themes and variations, its lulls and crescendos.


But no graceful manumission or even an ending.

Just all that nothing. And then the dream, this:

the benign, nondescript beings we passed


the heavy jars to on the stairs; a fluid motion, matter-

of-fact and momentous. With each transfer, the pull

lessened, the toll on our claim was not as large.


Analyst and theologian argue what it meant.


First published in New England Review