Issue > Poetry
Joshua L Martin

Joshua L Martin

Joshua Martin's work has appeared most recently in The Raleigh Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Coal Hill Review, decomP, The Cumberland River Review and elsewhere. He was a finalist in the 2016 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition and 2016 Coal Hill Review Contest, and his chapbook, Passing Through Meat Camp, was a finalist in the 2015 Jacar Press Chapbook Competition. He currently teaches composition at Georgia State University, where he is a PhD student in creative writing.

Family Vacation


Each August they loaded the Chevy, drove
switchbacks gently so cans
of half-used, year-old sunscreen
stayed intact in the plastic red cooler.
In the rear-view mirror, my grandfather smiled
as the gray sky hung like a grimy sheet,
his hands clutching the wheel harder
than any previous month's hardhat or paycheck.
Beside him, my grandmother began to assure herself
that the garage had closed and that the neighbor's daughter
with the key was reliable, was even an acolyte
some Sundays at the Episcopal church.
In the backseat, my father and uncle stared
silently down I-77's cracked black tongue,
searched for the first signs of Myrtle Beach,
for the promise of a sun they didn't feel
in Nitro, West Virginia, where the depots
waited for the late trains from Pittsburgh
and even the smokestacks had names.
Though my grandfather knew he'd never
run his fingers through the white-jeweled sands
of Acapulco, Cozumel, he sought North Myrtle's
sandpaper dunes, and so worked 60 hours
a week in a plant in exchange for five whole days
free from steam and acid, slumped drunk
in his chair while my father, not quite four,
smeared sunscreen onto his shoulders,
and my grandmother stood in the surf
         in the spume and driftwood,
like a tern with oil-slicked wings.

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