some bears wake

some bears wake in winter
to snow and stone –
too soon and alone
a dense isolate against the gray

I imagine the great shaking
of sleep from fur –
the unconsidered solitude
the dark, inviolate grace

the huff and shudder
of breath and muscle –
and then the moving forward
into pale emptiness

of necessity, resolute

© Sarah Whiteley

a poet’s levy

certain books stay hidden –
those in which loss and love
exist without conclusion

and at times I may crack them –
draw new maps to old places,
new creatures of known constellations,

and let the moon out into the room
once more, to rest on shoulders
that can bear the additional gravity

a tolerable price to pay
for the pen to be able to say
“I survive! I survive! I survive!”

© Sarah Whiteley

there are wiser things


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

every line is a love story

every line I write is a love story
whether I write to say my skin
remembers the imprint of your hand
as if it were there now still

or I thought for the smallest of moments
I heard your voice only to discover
it was the thrush calling out its love
for sky from the pole outside my window

even when I write simply
I stopped to buy the milk this morning
it is what is said underneath
that makes this still of love
the things that are unpenned
how as I turned the corner of the building
a man whose shoulders echoed the slope of yours
startled a joyful greeting from me
until he turned and in the early sun
I saw that he was never you
or how as I stood in the coolness
in the false light of the dairy section
I stared at the cartons of milk
and recalled how it was to have someone
to buy milk with – how it was to argue
over skim (too watery) versus whole
(the only milk worth having)
to finally compromise on two percent
(which I detest nearly as much as skim)
or how when fumbling for my card
at the register the checker
with the surprisingly kind eyes saying
‘and how are you this morning?’
I think we all know how ‘fine’
is one of the easiest lies lips can form
yes, every line a love story
I’ve placed my heart in each
whether I write my love, I love
the fit of you to me
, or perhaps just
today I opened the mailbox
and found it was empty

© Sarah Whiteley

after stillness

for a second,
and the stillness
of stars waiting
and after stillness,
what then beyond
this arrested breath?
what then after
the suspended beating
from quiet breast?
what remembrance moon?
or trees that grew
beyond these windows?
or flowers passed
on pebbled paths
through sweetly scented
after these walls,
but then
I recall the fall
of kisses
the fondness
of hands that hold
all the promises
and the premise
of tomorrows
so what then?
you lean down
and murmur,
soft-lipped and smiling
for a second,
and the stillness
of stars waiting
and after stillness?

© Sarah Whiteley

it does not suffice

I cannot rise
from this bewildered bed
to moons
you do not wander beneath
to stars
that do not light
the tread of your feet
on the stairs
I cannot rise
to the familiar roads
brushed by the winds
you do not follow
and wonder
that you will never
pass these plains again
I cannot rise
to span this cavity
without the breath of you
beside me
I cannot rise
wrapped in remembering
against never
it does not suffice

© Sarah Whiteley