down east

it was late November
when I drove toward Maine

I still hear how the wind
tore across the highway,
rattling doors and nearly
blowing that tired red Buick
into the frozen ditch

I had second, third – hell
sixth thoughts on the other
side of the state line,
but I kept right on –

forward was the only
way left even though
the pines all pointed
back the other direction

a body ought to listen
to things like weather
and the wind and when
either one isn’t at your back,

it might be that’s a sign
you should turn right around
and that just maybe somewhere
down around western Mass

a right instead of that left
might not have inflicted the kinds
of change that would alter the slant
of a year’s share of wakeful nights

but winter’s nothing way up there
if not a lesson, and my toes
nearly froze during that storm
when I tried to find my way

five miles on foot up that hill
to somewhere never home
through fourteen inches of snow
in flimsy shoes with branches
dropping shrapnel all around –

a few other things nearly
froze over, trust included,
and it’s a wonder I thawed
out at all and can carry on

as if it was nothing more
than a freak nor’easter moving
through or a turn in the wrong
direction against the wind’s advice
two hundred or so miles back

down east was the only place
I’ve ever had to lie to live
or pick a lock to save my own skin
five degrees below zero –

twenty minutes spent just chipping
at that ice to use a bent hanger –
something I used to think only
worked in the movies but prayed
to God it could be otherwise

in the end hope won out
and I fled west with a new
appreciation for thick soles
and the warnings pine trees
and a good strong wind
might heap at a vagrant’s feet

but these are the things
I don’t speak of

and thank-the-lord don’t often
think of, save now and again
when a freezing wind
rattles at my windows –

some frenzied remnant
fighting to be let back in
and sometimes –
the old familiar ice still
finds a way beneath the sill

© Sarah Whiteley

Know this is outside of my norm, but have been wanting to clean the cobwebs out of this particular closet for a while now. Wrote this years ago and never posted it as it never felt “right” – but have reached the moment when I’ll tweak and peck it at no more. And in return, it will tweak and peck at ME no more!

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!

now

I love this now,
and this one,
and the now I carried
with me then,
when stumbling
upon that field
rampant with sunflowers
so bent upon echoing
the brilliancy of day,
they pressed themselves
flush against the belly
of the yellowing sky

and like photographs
of loved ones,
I tuck my nows
between book pages,
so that some days
when I do not like
a particular now,
an old one might come
tumbling out and ask
to sit and reminisce

© Sarah Whiteley

Just a quick thank you for all the support and positive energy around the release of my chapbook, No Direction But Home. I’ve set up a dedicated page (see Available Books above) which provides both a link to Amazon as well as a link to the Paypal option should you wish to have a signed copy.

pebbles

I have counted out the days
that do not contain you
have lined them up like pebbles
I might have pulled from the sand
salty still and glinting gray
as stones from the shore do
I imagine they must remember
the rushing kiss of tides
just as I remember how
the brush of you once stirred me
that place where once there was us
has since smoothed over
and the fissure is no longer
rough to the touch or recollection
still I have counted out the days
and will keep them with me
clattering together in deep pockets
and in the corners of drawers
to remind me of those moments
that might otherwise be gone
and I will line them up like pebbles
until I run out of room to keep them
or breath to name them

© Sarah Whiteley

And with that, I am off for a trip to see family in Wisconsin. This will be a treat (really, truly a treat) as it will be the first time we’ve all been in once place together in four years. Busy schedules and distance make it difficult to coordinate schedules, but tomorrow is my mom’s 60th birthday and what better reason to come together than to celebrate one of my favorite people in the world? See you next week!

I have been pondering…

I have been pondering
the madness of love
with the thought of you
like a fat spider
perched in its web
plucking at threads
I feel the reverberations
here with a strange pang
like rising too high
too quickly above the treeline
there’s madness there
in the small bits remembered
don’t believe me? look around –
I know just where it is
you see me
in the lone moments
where you wait unwilling
to stir further
the dust that stirs itself
in that chair, just there,
with the light behind me
and the dog in my lap
it’s where I realized
it’s the biggest mistakes
sometimes that set us free
you see? madness
and madness more so
that I yet love you
with the same surety
that I know you feel
me plucking
at the silk of you

© Sarah Whiteley

I am still having vivid dreams… and am at the same time battling the mother of all head colds. It is not pleasant – and it is not easy at the moment to string together cohesive thoughts. I’m at that stage where everything tastes like cough drops and my head is stuffed full of ether-soaked cotton balls. But I woke up this morning with this still ringing in my head and felt the need to get it out. If it makes any sense at all, hooray,… if not, blame the Nyquil.

letters to _____ – vi

you should hear then
how I would want
these last words
to be let loose
like jewel-green beetles
to race the hastening day
to scatter scuttling
this final evidence
to your distant ears
love, I rise asunder
each day that wakes
upon your absence
though I am ever
there beside you
for I cannot pull
your breath from mine
nor my love
from the hands
that rightly hold it

© Sarah Whiteley