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!

escaping spiders

one by one the moths
find their way into the building,
lose themselves in high corners
and dingy stairwells

cupping my hands I
usher what few I can off
the fire escape, blowing them
to whatever dusty fate is theirs

but more often find stilled
wings, unmoving corpses along
the baseboards beneath
the hallway lights

I think they know there’s
no moon here, but flock
to false incandescence for scant
safety in a poor substitute

but how else
does one escape the spiders?

© Sarah Whiteley

a different sort of genealogy

my father’s father kept the accounts
for a coal mine in eastern Pennsylvania
until one Valentine’s Day his heart quit
on him and birthed a widow in its stead

driving through the corrugated remains
of a Poconos coal town it’s unsettling
to think how the experiences of others
will invariably influence our own

and I wonder how that suddenly empty seat
might have turned the course of that
twelve-year old boy who would in forty years
be my father and was he as hollowed out

as the empty mines that gutted the hills,
or as that old miner’s shack crouched
at the base of the rocks weeping rust
and coal dust for thirty years and more

earlier that morning I’d been snailing along
in the car lost in the sudden morning fog
of November in the Alleghenies with every turn
and curve a ‘poke at fate’ in near-zero visibility

when God or Providence or what-have-you
sent succor in the hulking form of a Kenmore truck
whose keeper leaned his elbows on my window
and said it’s ok, just follow me

I was drawn in by the confidence of his long
experience and followed the red trail
of his hazards to the next town,
where I turned off with a double-honk of thanks

now trawling through the landscape of my father’s youth
I wonder how it was he found his way through the fog
with no light to follow but miners’ lamps disappearing
into dark shafts, and no one to say just follow me

© Sarah Whiteley

do not disregard the stars

in standing with our small funerals
the susurrus of our losses
soughing about our feet
do not disregard the stars
nor the soft shine of upturned leaf
they are as much an affirmation
of the loves that travel with us
as are the scars that are left
when we set them free
let there be some comfort
that the passing constellations
shine as brightly when they die
as they did when we only imagined
them to be alive

– for Ludwig, who left us to join his friend this morning –

© Sarah Whiteley

an array of days

we all of us
have a small array
of days
(how small, how)
some much more so
than others
and were we/I able
(un-blinded by-the-by)
to see them stretch
before/behind
we would be numbed
(benumbed) to find
nothing
stretching for ever
(never, but nevermind)
once we awake
(we still sleepers)
from our sleeping days
we can but
intoxicate ourselves
with every blessed breath
(still breathing, still unstill)
each day, that small array,
a sharp stab
of/into joy
(a stark contrast)
to the blurred edges
of the days before
when we knew/know
nothing more
of forever than
the myth forever
(how small, how)
the array
of our/my days

© Sarah Whiteley