the maps are out

hot coffee, and the maps are out –
the rise out of Box Canyon
an uneven line of red

a map may tally an ascent,
mark the twists in a trail,
lend certain assurances

what it cannot show is emergence
from a stone-heavy world
into the mercy of pines –

into the stalwart grace
of a waiting mountain,
where the rushing creeks sing
and the winds hum along

© Sarah Whiteley

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placid with the mountains

I cannot be the abstract
the city asks of me

I cannot maintain the grind
of teeth, of grime –

the hot seconds stuffed
into dull hours

when I do not go out,
the ghost of going out

rises within and whispers
of how the November woods

still smell of autumn –
of how the sleeping lake waits,

placid with the mountains
etched upon her face

© Sarah Whiteley

like the lake

like the lake, I am much less talkative
than say the creek cantering east,
teasing the low-hanging ferns to trembling

we lakes embrace rather than chase,
swallow whole those stones that settle
to long years of mute stillness

we are content with the stir and shift of winds,
with the lined glide of a pair of loons,
returning to the calm lull of a cat-tailed inlet

© Sarah Whiteley

gone to blue

should they ask,

I have gone to blue,
I have gone to green stillnesses,
to the bright-lipped lake
where the reeds still recall

that the wanting is often
greater than ever the having,
and that some days the rift
is only the start
of a different-directioned journey

so should they ask,

I have gone back,
back to the tranquilities,
back to the waters as they were,
and as they may someday be

tell them I have gone to blue

© Sarah Whiteley

at Sleepy Eye

days stretched out so long, they toppled
off the end of the weathered dock
into the spring-fed cold at Sleepy Eye

among the shadows between the pilings
swam the uncatchable ghost of a walleye
(suitably fish-tale-sized)
someone years past had called Walter

every summer we saw him jump,
breaking the lake at dusk, just offshore
where the small-flies gathered
in their short-lived, tiny-winged hordes

at the splash “it’s Walter!”
we’d gasp and sit properly awed
while we envisioned the sort of net
that might finally nab him

the “growed-up” me is somewhat relieved
Walter’s remained a fish-ish myth,
dodging all the efforts and lures
of the great northern fisherman

this way, he’s stayed a childhood tale –
of firefly nights among hundred-year pines
and the hollow sound of wooden oars
striking the sides of a kid-captained boat

© Sarah Whiteley