the reason why

if I needed a reason
to pace the floor,
pass by the door a fifth,
tenth, fourteenth time,
to check the gas,
to raise the windows,
to create just a little more
space for the dark
to slip into

if I needed a reason
to count the passing dogs
with impatient owners
hurrying them home,
to touch again the spines
of books whose pages
have kept their silences
firmly to themselves
and failed to distract me

if I needed a reason
to press my ear
nearer to the air
we shared,
to wait fruitlessly
on footfalls in the hallway
to pass, to pause,
to toe the crack
at the bottom of my door

if I needed a reason
to twist and spin
myself into a thread
thin and taut, fraught
with all the things
we wait to occur
while all our actions
compounded, amount to
a paralyzing passivity

if I needed a reason
to box up all these hours,
to cut these ties
and stop the gainless pacing,
to close my eyes,
and finally close then
the window blinds –
you didn’t stop by to ask it,

and that’s the reason why

© Sarah Whiteley

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the flame tree

bide not, beloved,
tarry not long,
for the sweetgrass is calling
and the light is nigh gone

here in the hollow
where first you kissed me
I will wait, my beloved,
beside the flame tree

I will cut me a branch
as red as my heart
and whittle you home
where we’ll ne’er be apart

“oh!” cries the sparrow
“ah!” calls the crow
the hills will not tell me
where my dearest did go

stay not, my lover,
away from my hand,
for the blackbirds are crying
low o’er the land

they winnow and plummet
away from their rest
their song e’er repeating
is the same in my breast

oh, bide not, beloved,
leave me not by,
alone in the hollow
to wait and to sigh

“oh!” cries the sparrow
“ah!” calls the crow
the stars will not tell me
where my dearest did go

the wind’s in the rushes
the moon’s in the pine
the sweetgrass now whispers
you never were mine

consign me not, dearest,
behind the church gates,
but bury me gently
where for you I did wait

there in the hollow
where first you kissed me
I will wait, my beloved,
beside the flame tree

“oh!” cries the sparrow
“ah!” calls the crow
the flame tree will tell you
where your dearest did go

© Sarah Whiteley