the question

I cannot say to you
that it is deep spring –
that now when I walk
at the outset of night,
the fields are thick
with frog song

I cannot tell you
that those long talks
under the porch light
were the best moments,
and saved me many times
from myself

you are not here
to hear that these
are also the best moments,
living among the worst –

and that “yes”
would be the answer
if you’d ask again
whether I am happy

but you are not here
to ask the question,
and I am petal-deep
in memories

© Sarah Whiteley

On Easter Sunday, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. We lost him quickly, and because of our current situation, I was unable to hug him one more time in farewell. He was truly the kindest, most generous person I’d ever met. He was thoughtful, and compassionate, and gently pushed others towards compassion. I never got the chance to tell him how his presence in my life changed me for the better – saved me even. For years, he would ask me the question “are you happy?” and for years my answers fell somewhere between “well, you know” and “I’m okay” followed by a shrug. This man who genuinely cared whether or not I was happy never had the chance to hear that I was. I am finally in a space where I have room to breathe, where I am safe, where daily I can walk among trees, where I can feel some peace. And a lot of that is due to this one person who cared enough to help me ask myself what it is exactly that would make me happy. So thank you, dear Leo. I am happy. ❤

crow funeral

this morning, I am the attendee
of another crow funeral

the fourth such curated cacophony
close followed by hushful reverence

yet this is only something eventual
finally becoming true

while elsewhere, the crickets
rasp hymns to the rain

© Sarah Whiteley

Anyone who has followed this poetry blog for any length of time knows that I have been accepted by a very special family of crows. For the past 9 years, they have been clownish companions who visit me on the porch, caw through my window to get my attention, introduce their young to me, and tag along on walks with the dogs. I have had to warn any dog sitters coming in that the crows recognize my dogs and will want to walk with them even when I’m not there. I have been entertained, enchanted, and delighted by them – even when they steal my lighter and drop chicken bones on my head (I think that’s a gift?).

This morning the family lost one of this year’s young – hit by a car while I was on my way to work. This is the fourth crow funeral I have witnessed, but the first I have seen from start to finish. While I would have much preferred to have a different start to my Friday, it at the very least serves as a reminder that animals are as capable of close connection and of mourning as we are.

the traveler, starting young

rails-768427_1280

I never was in so much trouble
as that time I vanished down the tracks,
losing sight of the afternoon,
small shoes balanced on the ties,
walking into evening between the rails

even at that age I could name goldenrod
and dog rose, Queen Anne’s lace and sumac –
could pick out moths from butterflies –
but had not yet discovered the word
for that unrelenting itch to wander

but mother knew the word and four miles later,
I was spanked all the harder
for the future loss of her daughter
who would disappear along the tracks
to find solace down some dusty road

© Sarah Whiteley

the waiting

street-musician-984141_640

the waiting creeps up
from feet, passes hips,
submerges wrists
in slippery uncertainty

naturally, the ear
strains to catch
the subtle shift of air
that marks departure

no one ever sings
through the smoke
of staying –
love and smoke both
only ever go

sometimes you
get so caught up
in the leaving,
all kisses become
eventual goodbyes

another bottle
sits on the table,
waiting for me to
swallow myself again
with pretending,

for your feet
to recede down
the front steps
down other, more
diffident streets

© Sarah Whiteley

what has been lost

smoke
love remaining half-asked,
with an exile’s hunger,
what have you lost?
smoke never stops moving,
alters nothing, and
leaves irretrievably

when exactly does time
distill us down to fire?
down to accumulated passion?
at what point have we traded
the marked directions
of known constellations
for the possible light
of far, unseen stars?

I carry with me every touch,
each quiet sigh released
beside you, and have lost
precisely nothing

© 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

the skill of forgetting

the skill of forgetting –
more than a little like whittling –

slow and methodical,
always the blade pointed away

from a body, lightly curled
over the casually dwindling medium

those of us who have become
proficient at this

have learned even to hum a bit –
something slightly off-key,

off-kilter, with words long ago
lost to rag-quilt memory,

something once buried,
but half-summoned up

by letting fly the shavings,
paring away moments most aggrieved

© Sarah Whiteley