the question

I cannot say to you
that it is deep spring –
that now when I walk
at the outset of night,
the fields are thick
with frog song

I cannot tell you
that those long talks
under the porch light
were the best moments,
and saved me many times
from myself

you are not here
to hear that these
are also the best moments,
living among the worst –

and that “yes”
would be the answer
if you’d ask again
whether I am happy

but you are not here
to ask the question,
and I am petal-deep
in memories

© Sarah Whiteley

On Easter Sunday, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. We lost him quickly, and because of our current situation, I was unable to hug him one more time in farewell. He was truly the kindest, most generous person I’d ever met. He was thoughtful, and compassionate, and gently pushed others towards compassion. I never got the chance to tell him how his presence in my life changed me for the better – saved me even. For years, he would ask me the question “are you happy?” and for years my answers fell somewhere between “well, you know” and “I’m okay” followed by a shrug. This man who genuinely cared whether or not I was happy never had the chance to hear that I was. I am finally in a space where I have room to breathe, where I am safe, where daily I can walk among trees, where I can feel some peace. And a lot of that is due to this one person who cared enough to help me ask myself what it is exactly that would make me happy. So thank you, dear Leo. I am happy. ❤

the consolation

I could not save
the goldfinch
from drowning –

for years now,
the memory
has persisted

frail the feathers,
bright the dazzle
of sun on the water

logic tells me
he was dying
regardless

and his death,
the gift of a day
that remains

© Sarah Whiteley

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes we are presented with an opportunity which drives us in a direction opposite from our original intentions. The choice to jump in one direction or the other can result in unlooked for changes. For the time being, my heart has told me to set Colorado aside and to stay where I am to see what comes of a rediscovered love. Rest assured that I am both happy and hopeful jumping in this particular direction.

In other news, PBS American Portrait reached out to me recently on Twitter and asked if I would consider sharing. And so I did, submitting under the category “My greatest challenge is…” I hope that you will take a moment read what I’ve chosen to share, and also consider sharing your own story as well as browsing through the many wonderful thoughts that others have shared.

I don’t often speak of my struggles with anxiety and depression, but they are very real parts of my life. Hiking has become a way of coming home to myself – a way of finding peace when nothing else has worked. I felt like it was important enough to share, knowing that others face the same daily battles.

With much love and appreciation,
Sarah

crow funeral

this morning, I am the attendee
of another crow funeral

the fourth such curated cacophony
close followed by hushful reverence

yet this is only something eventual
finally becoming true

while elsewhere, the crickets
rasp hymns to the rain

© Sarah Whiteley

Anyone who has followed this poetry blog for any length of time knows that I have been accepted by a very special family of crows. For the past 9 years, they have been clownish companions who visit me on the porch, caw through my window to get my attention, introduce their young to me, and tag along on walks with the dogs. I have had to warn any dog sitters coming in that the crows recognize my dogs and will want to walk with them even when I’m not there. I have been entertained, enchanted, and delighted by them – even when they steal my lighter and drop chicken bones on my head (I think that’s a gift?).

This morning the family lost one of this year’s young – hit by a car while I was on my way to work. This is the fourth crow funeral I have witnessed, but the first I have seen from start to finish. While I would have much preferred to have a different start to my Friday, it at the very least serves as a reminder that animals are as capable of close connection and of mourning as we are.

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

there are wiser things

cherry-blossoms-sky-cr-img_5624

take from them what you can –

there are wiser things than those
that carry discernible voices –

down the street near the park,
five cherries are marked with orange

distorted by time and poor nourishment
(it’s no surprise they’ve failed to thrive)

and within this Spring’s feeble pink,
parting unfurled and scattered

come July, the city and their saws
will pare them down to stumps

before then, the crows and I
will grace them with a last goodbye

not with pious pity,
but with a graceful thanks

for their green rendering
of unknowable sky

© Sarah Whiteley

what matter what light

what is there left to make
of this diminished light?

is this benediction? or a requiem
rung from empty throats?

what use in evading
the day’s extinction?

it is vespers, and the cantor
marks an inescapable terminus

what matter what light
is left to us?

for while there is any light at all,
benedicimus! benedicimus te! –

how wondrous the consummation,
how beautiful the end!

© Sarah Whiteley

mileposts

6:57 AM and light’s early overture
has warmed the cherry petals just enough
that the faintest scent of sweet emerges

maybe it’s more than just scribbling poets
who note these moments and mark the time,
mentally ticking off the mileposts to restoration

but this morning’s note is more than that –
today’s surfacing defines a full ten years,
and the cherry trees have bloomed to remind me

when my bus crosses John Street, I lose it –
cry quietly against the window at sunlight
pushing obdurately through the newest leaves

but by tiny degrees, I still find comfort
in the indomitable certainty that gently-scented,
spring will always return where you cannot

© Sarah Whiteley

A little sad today – marking the 10-year anniversary of losing my little brother. Don’t think I made a complete fool of myself on the bus – at least I hope not. I do find the cherry trees comforting. The bloom does go on.

On a side note, I do not recommend beginning spring by simultaneously breaking your toe and ripping the toenail off. Can we say ouch?! Yes,… yes we can. With a few other choice four-letter words thrown in for good measure!

counting the dead

a woman at work innocently asked
and where’s your other brother?

even after ten years I often cannot
bring myself to say he’s dead

so I said Minnesota instead,
which I think he’s probably laughing about

wherever he is or isn’t

saying now that I have one brother
feels false as soon as the words are formed

so there must be a way of counting the dead –
but until I find a math that works,

I have two – although one of them currently
is unreachable somewhere in Minnesota

© Sarah Whiteley

I really did say “Minnesota” though I don’t know what possessed me at the time. And he would be laughing over it, which makes me smile. But I still never know whether to say I have two brothers or one.

in memoriam – for J.

into swelling tides of feathered grasses
the swallows dive like last light
behind the foothills, purple and gray
with the bruises of another vanishing day

too many Octobers have becomingly blazed
since you and I sat on that step
with damp hair and cigarettes,
content in the sun-filtered silence

and if some days I choose to cradle my pain
close to my chest, it is only to
keep the dust from that October day
and our last shared morning

for all too soon the trees will bend
to November’s wind, piling their griefs
onto last season’s leaves, like failed birds
that lie in memoriam of warmer earths

© Sarah Whiteley

In other news, the deadline craziness is finally DONE and I can return to feeling human once more. Such a relief to shed a that particular stress and enjoy time that is once again my own!