sleeping bears

sometimes, between the long span
of months in which I do not
think of you at all,
I briefly consider calling you up
to ask you along for a hike

for a moment, not thinking how
having you there would so alter
the trail, that what lies before
would amount to steadfast avoidance
of what should be left behind

sometimes I consider calling you,
but let’s leave it there –
leave it as we would a sleeping bear
without the thaw of spring to shake
the old frosts from her fur

© Sarah Whiteley

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the house finches

the house finches have
changed their song again –
to one of fierce joy,
of emphatic nest-lust

it seems almost too soon
for such passion,
with snow still gathered,
blue in the shadows
of the north-facing stones

then again, some songs exist
simply to remind us
it may never be too soon,
yet sometimes it is
quite plainly too late

© Sarah Whiteley

Sweet William

yesterday, I carried a sprig of Sweet William
three miles to a favorite poet’s grave
simply because you do not have one

and there, the trees were a free-for-all
of birds – oh, gorgeous, noisome riot!

some other Spring mourner before me had left
a tiny, silver “s” of a snake – something you
(poet, brother) both would have appreciated

each year, I am less clever, more gray –
but only this newspaper clipping of you ages

© Sarah Whiteley

traditions

a maple-glazed ham
yes, with mustard!
instead of the turkey
(no sense in a bird
with just the two of us)

and perhaps too-fancy
French piped potatoes –
in little whorled peaks
instead of the sugary,
too-sweet pile of yams

even the pie this year
will be something new –
pumpkin with a spice
I’ve never used (enough
and more for just us)

closing in on middle age
and still I find myself
stumbling around traditions –
finding or making them up
as I push through the years

and for the day after,
a tree like no one else’s
will gleam in silvers
and blues while I hang
two hundred tiny beads

and all the while dance
to Ladysmith Black Mambazo
like Santa isn’t watching
and be grateful that this year’s
new tradition is you

© Sarah Whiteley

the aging heart

when one is young
a heart’s pain is half-wild
hot and sharp and crazed as wasps
in an aging heart
the pain settles in a way
like an ever-present
ache in the elbows
a creak in the knees
or like rousing stiff-jointed
in the chill revelation of morning
with your heart’s hurts waking
upon the pillow beside you
and the niggling frustration
of wondering just where
you left the damn keys

© Sarah Whiteley

I would I could

I would
I could stay
in those days
of skinned knees,
firefly-lit trees,
and the cool stretch
of evenings
the moon tipped all
her sweetness into
and in the far fields
chase the years
yet to come
up the grass-wrapped rise
where the stars
that held my eyes
touch and hold still
that spray of youth
when green, green
spread unending
and the honeysuckle hung
beneath the sour apple tree,
bare feet dangling
down below the boughs
without a care
for things like thistles,
or neighbors, or propriety
dear me,
I would
I could stay
in those days
where we played
evenings along the creek
so cold it crushed
the breath from our
fledgling frames,
thin as new foals
but spry as goats,
we plucked berries
as fresh as you can get
and as wild as the orphans
our mother called us
then grass was meant
for rolling down
and words like winter
and worry
were still
so very far away
I would
I could stay

© Sarah Whiteley