Do Not Return

“…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching
forward to those things which are ahead.”

—Philippians 3:13

Do not return where once you were contented—
It is a trap to seal you in despair;
For time moves on, and grieving hearts tormented
By pangs of loss won’t find what once was there.

Do not go back where once you felt lighthearted—
It is a snare, to lock you fast in gloom;
The house lies lorn, the loved ones have departed,
And silence reigns in every empty room.

Don’t seek the landscapes or the shining places
That glowed like gold mines; now they’re dark with rust,
And in the crowds, you’ll see no cherished faces,
For time’s a grinder that turns all to dust.

It’s good to watch the burning embers glow
As slowly they grow cold and turn to ash,
But if you take them in your arms, you’ll know
That only pain comes from an act so rash.

Let memories live in your fondest dreams
To make you smile as on life’s path you roam,
But do not swim against time’s flowing streams,
Nor seek to make of shades a settled home.

Do not go back where once your heart was happy,
The hearth is bare, the palmy days have flown,
And all your loved ones—Brother, Ma, and Pappy—
Have gone ahead and left you here alone.

Do not remain alone, but go forth boldly;
New life awaits you, if you seize the day!
For winds of cherished yesterdays blow coldly
And cannot warm you, when they fade away.

Look up! Take heart! Fresh vistas full of wonder,
New friends await you on the road ahead.
Don’t let grief’s vultures tear your life asunder.
Come join the living; leave behind the dead.



Traveler’s Rest

The Old Man’s Testimony

When I was young, my longing was to go
To distant shores, to ancient, fabled lands,
To wondrous worlds my wild heart wished to know
Beyond far coral seas and coastal sands.

I longed to roam for countless days on end
Across green hills, through valleys far and wide,
Through woods and fields, my pilgrim’s way to wend,
To rest in some quaint inn at eventide.

But now I long, not so much to go forth,
But to come home again and find my rest
Where from the east and west and south and north
All paths converge, and life is at its best!

I’ve seen the mountains, and the crystal seas,
I’ve seen the bustling cities, full of life,
I’ve known ecstatic joys and times of ease,
And had my share of sorrows, pain, and strife.

I’ve walked unnumbered miles and worn out shoes
From all the dusty roads my feet have trod;
I’ve freely gone wherever I would choose,
Except where doors were firmly closed by God.

I’ve felt the winter’s blast cut like a knife,
And springtime’s zephyr breezes stroke my hair;
Scorched by the summer’s heat, I’ve felt my life
Revive once more in autumn’s cooling air.

So now, within these walls, my heart’s content,
To live out all the moments that remain;
While others go the way that once I went,
Here I would stay in days of sun and rain.

To stay right here, within this cherished home,
While all the restless world rushes by—
That’s fine with me! I have no wish to roam,
I’ve seen all I would see before I die.

Of all rare sights, there’s one on which I’ve gazed
Worth more than all the world—beyond compare:
A barren hill, on which a cross was raised,
The dying form of One who anguished there.

I’ve seen the tree of life! That’s how I know
I’m ready to move on when God thinks best,
For when that fixed hour comes for me to go,
He’ll lead this weary pilgrim to his rest.



Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.

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26 Responses

  1. jd

    Love them both but especially the second. Wish I
    could write so well of all that matters. Thank you!

  2. Tonia Kalouria

    I am misty-eyed! Both of these are so wonderful. The first especially “hits home” as a widow who has thought about returning to the old hometown.
    As you so eloquently point out, not much to be gained except disappointment by trying to go Home again.

    • Martin Rizley

      It is always encouraging to know that a poem one has written has “hit home” with a reader. Thank you for sharing your feedback. It is true that sometimes after a great loss– especially the loss of a spouse– going back to the “old places” associated with past joys can be painful, unless one has come to terms with the loss and is resolved to live with an eye to the future, rather than seeking to live in the past

  3. Janice Canerdy

    This is such a skillfully composed, expressive, moving poem!
    favorite stanza:

    But now I long, not so much to go forth,
    But to come home again and find my rest
    Where from the east and west and south and north
    All paths converge, and life is at its best!

    • Martin Rizley

      I am glad that you found the poem “Traveller´s Rest” moving. Thank you for your feedback, Janice

  4. Paul Freeman

    Yep. Going back’s almost always tinged by rose-tinted nostalgia.

    Thanks for the poignant reads, Martin.

    • Martin Rizley

      The Portuguese have a word for the painful poignancy associated with what you describe as “rose-tinted nostalgia” for the irrecoverable past– “saudade”. It is a great word, one that describes a universal experience that we can all identify with. Thanks for your feedback, Paul.

    • Martin Rizley

      Thanks for sharing your response to the poems, David. I am glad you found them “uplifting”, despite the rather melancholy tone that imbues the first poem, especially.

    • Martin Rizley

      I am glad you not only enjoyed the poem, Cheryl, but found it practically helpful, as well.

  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Two exquisitely beautiful poems, the first with the concept of one cannot return to that which once existed while looking forward., the other with the wise counsel of a former traveler who now peacefully waits the future after death. The Bible verse quoted is perfect as the initiator for the first poem

    • Martin Rizley

      I appreciate your words, Roy, and the way you link the theme of the two poems together. I often like to include a Bible verse or some other quote under the title of a poem to provide a clue to its meaning.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Somehow, Martin, you have managed to express feelings of longing as well as, or better than, any poem I can recall reading has ever done. And yet — and yet — you have shown that such longing is all too easily misplaced. And you have indicated the path to redemption. Well done, sir.

    • Martin Rizley

      Wow, that is quite a complement, C.B.! Thanks for expressing your appreciation of the poems. You are so right that longings can be “easily misplaced”, for which reason it is important to “work through” the grief associated with painful losses so that one can accept loss and move into the future. Life is too precious a gift to be spent forever lamenting what cannot return.

  7. Norma Pain

    Two most enjoyable poems Martin. I especially like ‘Do Not Return’, pointing out the futility of wishing to return/re-live the past. Thank you.

  8. Joshua C. Frank

    Martin, these are both great—both are life lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way and still need to be reminded of from time to time. These made me want to search your name for other poetry you’ve written.

    • Martin Rizley

      Joshua, I think many of us can identify with what you say about “lessons learned the hard way.” I am so glad these poems served as a reminder of these life lessons we all need to remember.

  9. Jeff Eardley

    Martin, these are two wonderful and thoughtful works for our Remembrance day. The misty-eyed past is certainly to be avoided and there is surely a good reason for so many English pubs to be called. “The Travelers Rest.” Best wishes to you.

    • Martin Rizley

      My daughter was enrolled in a British school here on the southern coast of Spain, and that´s when I learned about Remembrance Day. What a wonderful tradition which teaches young people to value the importance of history and to honor the sacrifices others have made for us to live in freedom. I think so many problems in our culture come from the current tendency in academia to despise everything associated with the past, deride traditional values, and to think that wisdom began and ends with us. Hope to visit one of those English pubs you mention one day; can´t think of a cozier name for a wayside inn than “Traveller´s Rest”! Cheers from this life-long anglophile.

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Martin, these poems are not only bright and beautiful, they are also chock full of wise and wonderful words… the sort of words that change outlooks and bring joy… the sort of words that I’ll go back to as a personal reminder to never cower in the dark corners of my past. I love these lines especially:
    “Don’t let grief’s vultures tear your life asunder.
    Come join the living; leave behind the dead.” – truly liberating! Thank you!

    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Susan. From what you have shared on this website of personal struggles in the not too distant past, I know that you have had to deal with “grief´s vultures” plucking at your flesh, so I am so glad these poems can serve as inspiration to go on fighting the good fight of faith, without ever cowering in the dark.


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