down east

it was late November
when I drove toward Maine

I still hear how the wind
tore across the highway,
rattling doors and nearly
blowing that tired red Buick
into the frozen ditch

I had second, third – hell
sixth thoughts on the other
side of the state line,
but I kept right on –

forward was the only
way left even though
the pines all pointed
back the other direction

a body ought to listen
to things like weather
and the wind and when
either one isn’t at your back,

it might be that’s a sign
you should turn right around
and that just maybe somewhere
down around western Mass

a right instead of that left
might not have inflicted the kinds
of change that would alter the slant
of a year’s share of wakeful nights

but winter’s nothing way up there
if not a lesson, and my toes
nearly froze during that storm
when I tried to find my way

five miles on foot up that hill
to somewhere never home
through fourteen inches of snow
in flimsy shoes with branches
dropping shrapnel all around –

a few other things nearly
froze over, trust included,
and it’s a wonder I thawed
out at all and can carry on

as if it was nothing more
than a freak nor’easter moving
through or a turn in the wrong
direction against the wind’s advice
two hundred or so miles back

down east was the only place
I’ve ever had to lie to live
or pick a lock to save my own skin
five degrees below zero –

twenty minutes spent just chipping
at that ice to use a bent hanger –
something I used to think only
worked in the movies but prayed
to God it could be otherwise

in the end hope won out
and I fled west with a new
appreciation for thick soles
and the warnings pine trees
and a good strong wind
might heap at a vagrant’s feet

but these are the things
I don’t speak of

and thank-the-lord don’t often
think of, save now and again
when a freezing wind
rattles at my windows –

some frenzied remnant
fighting to be let back in
and sometimes –
the old familiar ice still
finds a way beneath the sill

© Sarah Whiteley

Know this is outside of my norm, but have been wanting to clean the cobwebs out of this particular closet for a while now. Wrote this years ago and never posted it as it never felt “right” – but have reached the moment when I’ll tweak and peck it at no more. And in return, it will tweak and peck at ME no more!

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9 thoughts on “down east

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