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

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peace interrupted

crow 2 IMG_6442

an expostulation of crows
unceremoniously drowned out
by the lawncare quartet –
mower, blower, chipper, and saw

they cling to the high sawara
in hunched recrimination
thinking, I think,
much the same as I

© Sarah Whiteley

Crow update? Well sure!

The crows are still in the midst of molting (or moulting for my UK friends). So they’re looking a bit scraggly at the moment. Added to that, their numbers are increasing as a precursor to the winter roosting so I’m at the time of year when there are no longer just 5 or so following me about, but 15-20. Most walks consist of me, two dogs, and an abundance of bedraggled looking, very vocal crows. This morning I had roughly 10 walking in close formation behind the dogs – it looked like I had my own feathered army. One woman stopped her car, leaned out the window after honking at me, and said “they’re very bold, aren’t they?”

I’m very pleased that I can still pick Coyote out of the bunch and more often than not the two babies from this year’s nesting.

A little farther north, Sorrow is still around and still comes swooping in for treats. He’s always been quiet for a crow and doesn’t demand or cluck or scold like Coyote does. I haven’t seen Mirth for several months now and I have to believe that either he’s gone his own way apart from the flock or he’s simply no more.

I’m enjoying my strange friends while I can. A move is on the horizon for me so I’m afraid my time with Coyote and his brood and with Sorrow is limited. I’ll miss them more than I probably ought to – silly, sentimental me – but will appreciate their raucous company while I still have it.

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!

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

channeling the crazy crow woman

how must I look – this graying
Botticelli who walks with crows
in a constant spray of black cawings,
a dark-feathered wind I would not dispel

one is for Sorrow, two is for Mirth,
and the bursting laughter of those first
brought the flock that now follows glossily,
seeking tidbits from one who says “well hello”

but oh, how the superstitious must
inwardly flinch (irrational reflex!)
and it’s funny to me how a feather can
so clearly draw a divide between them and me

pshaw! and caw! to all of you fragile-minded
things – flightier even than crows –
they are a gift the same as my mad curls and I
will revel in them both for as long as life allows

© Sarah Whiteley

My mom insists that I ought to write and illustrate a children’s book about the crows that have adopted me. Truth be told, I’d already had a few half-formed thoughts about that before she mentioned it. Trouble is I’m an impatient sort of artist – I want to feel the immense satisfaction of completion before I’ve put the proper amount of effort into it I think. The result of course is sloppy art. Ha! One of these days I’ll put down a few sketches and see if I can muster the enthusiasm for such a project.

In the meantime, I do sometimes wonder what sorts of thoughts are going through the minds of the people who have given me odd (or yes, even shocked) looks when walking by the entourage that is me, two dogs, and anywhere from 2-12 crows (depending on time of year).