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. ❤

street noise

I remember, when I run into you again,
balancing on the edge of the cracked sidewalk,
how much I wanted to like you
even more than I already did

all I hear is nothing you actually said –
everything else is street noise

© Sarah Whiteley

I don’t often write romance into my poetry these days. But in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ll dust this one off. ❤

early morning hike

I wake well before dawn
so that I might walk
with the mist and the fog,
each of us finding
our own path up the peak

yet loving the damp bark
of the lofty cypress
in precisely the same way –
like light suddenly unbound,
eagerly embracing all
it can and cannot name

those who would say
a mountain does not breathe
have never placed their feet
where feet have not yet been –
have never found the river
that flows into the mountain
and does not come out again

© Sarah Whiteley

My newest chapbook Wandering Wonderful is now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. Pre-orders through March 22nd will have an opportunity to win a canvas print of the cover art. Click for details!

mending a friendship

for Charlie

routing earth for ants,
our quarry a queen,
it was as if the air
turned to petals
and buzzings of bees,
each of us sweet
and industrious
in the bright breaks
between rain

earlier, we’d paused
for the low darts
of the swallows
and the unexpectedness
of a dragonfly
the exact color
of a November sea

for now a small quest
and a glad yes
enough to bring us
shoulder to shoulder
in the tentative hope
of certainty and sorry

© Sarah Whiteley

porchlight

it was as if all of every summer’s heat
had sunk into the worn boards of the porch

twenty years ago and I would do more
than simply sit beside you and tell tales

but here and twenty years backwards, I’ll admit
to seeing the lapsed possibility of home in you –

how the porchlight cradles your laughter
and not so much the door I can’t rush out of

without thinking if I’d only known you then
we would have been that much more

even in leaving, you’re all and everything
though everything arrives too late

even my feet, in finding their way away,
feel the impossible promise of you

© Sarah Whiteley

reading Milosz on the porch in March

it must be March –

this morning
the quince blooms
and two crows
sit on the porch rail
trading gentle preenings
between them,
beside me,
while I am sipping
rapidly cooling coffee
and reading
my tattered Milosz,
thinking about how even black
might just be luminous
when embodied by feathers
and emboldened thus
by the merest blink
of gathering Spring

© Sarah Whiteley

the house finches

the house finches have
changed their song again –
to one of fierce joy,
of emphatic nest-lust

it seems almost too soon
for such passion,
with snow still gathered,
blue in the shadows
of the north-facing stones

then again, some songs exist
simply to remind us
it may never be too soon,
yet sometimes it is
quite plainly too late

© Sarah Whiteley