The Whisperers

October in Bend, Oregon

Just off Cascade Lakes Road –

past Tetherow, before the Seventh Mountain Inn –

the rusty “Trail Rides” sign and horses no one’s hired yet.

I have to slow my over-joyful feet from slipping

on muddy leaves as I review what I know:

Horses kiss by sharing breath. They’re afraid of many things.


An acorn brown and a dusty white mosey

toward the redwood fence to size me up

for something more than frozen straw.

We share eyes, breathe whiteness out, take time

to quiet down. Upfront, I admit

I’ve only strokes for their necks and a camera

for memories. They don’t seem to care.


They pose beyond requirement, listening

to why I loved Trigger as a kid,

slept in cowboy boots and chaps,

made my parents stop for pony rides.


I complain it took two days

to comprehend Bend’s round-abouts.

Trekking woodland trails must be easier,

I tease, than guessing rights-of-way and yields.


Snow has whited out Mt. Bachelor, I report.

Riparian is on my new words list.

And yesterday – the joke’s on me –

I thought the “Take Out” sign on the Deschutes

meant a restaurant not kayaks and canoes.


I want to tell them tomorrow I head home

and how they would love the cloud-smudged trees

with understories of oranges and golds.

Their eyes begin to glaze. I promise

to return – after snowmelts and possibilities

of spring – and take them for a ride.

I stop for breath. They ease away.



Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Thin Places (CA: Kelsay Books, 2017).

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has published poems in more than 125 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at