E. Martin Pedersen

E. Martin Pedersen

E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over 40 years in eastern Sicily, where he taught English at the local university. His poetry appeared most recently in Ginosko, Metaworker, Triggerfish, Unlikely Stories Mark V, and Grey Sparrow Review among others. Martin is an alumnus of the Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills and Smart Pills, and a chapbook, Exile’s Choice, just out from Kelsay Books. A full collection, Method & Madness, is forthcoming from Odyssey Press.


It’s Not Late

It’s not late but it seems
in the dark room with only
the blue glare of the silent screen
outside a rare car downstairs
they’re not stomping around
in their wooden clogs
a hum, a welcome hum
window open, a fishing boat motor
on the glass mirror telling me
that the lights are still on
over in Italy.

From Exile’s Choice


Rustici mignon
Is that something you eat
            Are they these flour-coated thingees
They’re cute
            I bet they’re fried, watch out
This one’s a rice ball
            With tomato sauce and ham and peas inside
In the center, how do they do that
            This one has white stuff, maybe melted cheese
Hope so
            Like a croissant or a pizza pocket
Shut up
            Rustics, if you ask me
Oh, there’s an olive pit in this one, I almost busted a tooth
            Stuffed with bread crumbs within a fried bread crust
I don’t like it
            Here’s a tiny pizza extra small size, thick crust, of course
Like the people
            Not microwaved though, it’s the real thing
Coke … Pepsi
            Maybe they eat this for lunch
I like this one best with mushrooms
            I despise mushrooms, yuck
Here, give this a try
            What we going to wash it all down with
Ask the boy what wine is recommended
With rustici mignon.

From Exile’s Choice

Broken Aqueduct

23 days no water, twenty-three days, this is seriously uncomfortable, no water, are we learning any lessons yet? how precious, it is maybe, how time flies, or does not, how to bathe oneself, from a 1-liter bottle, at 3 euros per 6 bottle pack – that’s too much plastic – they’re running out fast, doubt we will become, better people, once this is over, if it is, if we are, or enjoy a drink, in the same way.

            We are not alone
            it hits my tongue
            and tummy
            wetter, sweeter
            more deliberate
            more worthy
            more sacred
            I feel it more strongly now
            I am not alone.

                        So, what?
                        thank you, broken aqueduct?

Previously published in the Inverse Journal

Going to the Edge of the Land

We drove and drove, taking rest under Australian weeds
the comfort station had a toilet but no running water, hold it
no coffee no ice cream
ample apologies: “I know you’re not from here,”
said the shamed young woman, “It’s not always this bad.”
(we are from here, everywhere is here/bad)
Our sandwiches were good though
eaten by the monastery watching butterflies
until a Vespa drove us away with its buzz
onwards out toward the edge.

The decision made itself; no amount of my worrying could stop us now
we drove down dirt country roads twisted like treesnakes backtracking from tail to head
through card-playing villages and go-home rentals
in the stuffy midafternoon we found it
the vision from on high among the ruins
the glaringly irreal parking area
past it all, sturdy and calm we walked
out to the lakes where tiny boys captured tiny fish for the aquarium
and the trail got soft
Look, this mountain has a hole
no time for a game on the guano white checkerboard
Don’t look back
walk clear to the tightrope between everything and eternity
it’s always closer than you think
as we slowly melted into sugary sun tea
and talked of house construction.

I will never forget that bath
dipped in gold lifelikenessless
the laughter of gravity towels
finding ourselves as we knew each other seventeen years ago
grown tingling holding hands
Back on Sicilian sand.

From the forthcoming collection, Method and Madness

One Sweltering Day on the Caronte

The short man’s five rigid fingers shot energy rays
Then his hands went back into his curly hair for lubrification
Then his fingers became erect again and shot more frustration juice
He bit his marble hand, bent way over and yelled and cried
(not real tears though, don’t confuse acting with acting)
In any case, I couldn’t hear a sound locked in my glass observation booth

I did get to see the girls going at it, five or six of them
Heads down like rams, flailing
Pulling shocks of hair, slapping faces, breaking glasses
(females know no rules)
One had a switch for herding goats,
And everybody crept up to see the show, gratis, and kibitz

Except the northern gentleman in the next car with the yellow shirt and red tie
He didn’t get out either, clicking his tongue (the animals!)
Won’t somebody exercise some authority here?
Where’s the captain, in the wine cellar?
I realized as we pulled up to Messina and the lazy peace officers came aboard
That I was a northerner too and will never grow accustomed
To this welcome home.

Included in a family not my own
I am held in fond regard or perhaps hostage
Bondage but not blood
Blood forgives
Blood washes, they say here
You don’t know what a blood is, I say
Unless you went to my high school
And stayed out of the bathrooms at my high school
I won’t go into that because
I know you can’t understand
Around a mourning table of Sicilian focaccia
Washed down with American Co’Cola
Cousins remember the rusty go-carts and funny mini-bikes of their speedy youth
The same stories told at each funeral
So that I almost feel like I was there then
But no, this isn’t my family, I wasn’t there,
I have been adopted as a house plant
A philodendron, tall and common;
While I fancy throwing other rocks
into other rivers with other kids
Drinking and eating other stuff
[Beverly cream soda and Moon pies]
I don’t belong here.
Any more than a eucalyptus tree outside Oz,
Or Adam outside the garden, that is
So why am I here?

We are all destined in eventual generations
To exile
The either-or’s-stay-leave’s always leave sometime
For their 50 miles of elbow room
And that can’t be taken back (no do-overs)
I left
My fault
I left,
as you will sooner or later
and lost I don’t know what
and gained I don’t know what
how could you?
how could I?
Only that the lust for peculiarity
means my grandchildren will call this weird place
when they leave it
on that same ferry.

From the forthcoming collection, Method and Madness

Poetry in this post: © E. Martin Pedersen
Published with the permission of E. Martin Pedersen