Two Poems

by Martin Ott


Why I Worry Mom Is Dying While She Is Not Talking To Me After I Pointed Out How She Makes Us Feel Guilty For Not Visiting, Explained By Five Extinct Punctuation Marks


With finger pointer, email flail, I blamed
my mom for coughing her guilt onto me,
my daughter. Now indexed in the margins.

Percontation Mark

Are you dying is not rhetorical.
Jagged letters cut. Question are not
scythes. Tilled lines. Are you there?


The cigarette hack. Rattling of lungs.
The highlighter, human paragraphos.
The X-ray with spots, imagined doom.


The subsequent voicemails. Minute rants.
Affirmation of care, and dispersed fury.
The beep after my harangues. Unaware.


The pause while I wait to hear
could be an instant, or forever,
held breath, smoke, fire unclear.


Dangers of the Road

Scientists tracked motorists by satellite
to see which of them would swerve
over the median to mow down small

animals, and many chose blood sport.
My friend Sarah told me how she
was terrorized by a stalker for years,

changing her address to flee this hole
of a man threatening to pull her in.
My sergeant once told me that killing

another is our passage into manhood
the same way a woman is wounded
giving birth, a screaming revelation.

Armadillos and lizards suffered equally,
with men in SUVs more likely to murder.
Sarah was walking on a secluded beach

when her terror popped up behind her.
I learned to point a rifle at an enemy
and to stick a bayonet in to the hilt.

Dangerous drivers approach us all.
She smashed in his skull with a rock.
Life began after my daughter was born.

A former U.S Army interrogator, Martin Ott lives in Los Angles, where he writes, often about his misunderstood city. He is the author of four books of poetry: Underdays, University of Notre Dame Press (2015), Captive, C&R Press, and Poets’ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network (2014), co-authored with John F. Buckley, Brooklyn Arts Press. In 2013, he published The Interrogator’s Notebook, Story Merchant Books. He blogs at