resolution

lately I have been
preoccupied with ghosts –

with the dust that
follows me from old roads

without wind, three pines
lean hard on a sister and groan –

the sound finds me
even after they fall

© Sarah Whiteley

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Ophelia on the dash

I can’t see a Buick these days
without recalling crawling in
through the driver’s side window –

for nearly 8,000 miles
that rubber worshiped roads
with Ophelia on the dash,
the trucks blaring as we passed

she was more cause than cat,
and once walked the split-rail
on the edge of a canyon while
the khaki families stared

criss-crossing 17 states,
we were never lost together –
only ever found making a beeline
for the next rich horizon,

calling home all those roads
that everyone else forgot

© Sarah Whiteley

I’ve been longing for an old-fashioned road trip lately, and it seems like the bug doesn’t hit without also missing my partner in crime from all those years ago. Ophelia was a Maine Coon kitten pulled from a trash dumpster who would grow up seeing the country from the dash of my old Buick. I sat down the other day and tried to figure out just how many miles we’d seen together, and I can say I traveled with that cat for further than I have with any human.

sleeping bears

sometimes, between the long span
of months in which I do not
think of you at all,
I briefly consider calling you up
to ask you along for a hike

for a moment, not thinking how
having you there would so alter
the trail, that what lies before
would amount to steadfast avoidance
of what should be left behind

sometimes I consider calling you,
but let’s leave it there –
leave it as we would a sleeping bear
without the thaw of spring to shake
the old frosts from her fur

© Sarah Whiteley

*

thinking of those days behind the wheel, cat stretched across the dash, exemption stretched out along straight, gray highways

trying now not to swallow that hook, though lately it seems the city hates me, shoves me toward her swilled-to-the-gill gutters

back then, there was the bag kept in the back and it didn’t matter that I had to crawl through the driver’s side window to get back behind the wheel

what mattered was the chance to get out of here, wherever “here” happened to be at that moment, and now it feels that “here” is now once more

and I miss that cat more than ever

© Sarah Whiteley

road-984118_640

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

the more brilliant gleam

I imagine sometimes
how it must be between you
and when it comes down to it
I am more than half-certain
that her spark, being
the nearer glow, is far
brighter than any feeble light
that now reaches you
from our own obscured
constellation
though I think perhaps
there are still moments
as when chill winter spurs
the stars to shine
with greater radiance
and for the briefest of beats
your eyes might rise
in sudden remembrance
as the ghost of my lips thieves
the breath from yours,
when you recall how once
the night contained
us both together
and that we were by bounds
the more brilliant gleam

© Sarah Whiteley

a winter life

I have not
dusted them away
those days
like daffodils in December
they lie quietly
below snowy crusts
nestled deep down
in the dormant dark
beneath sparrows’
flittering feet
whose beaks seek out
the forgotten seeds
of some summer
come the day
when I am old
and remembering perhaps
what spring once was
recalling
with a clarity of mind
only long years
can provide
I will brush aside
the snow
sweep away
the layers of leaves
and dried-up weeds
time has piled
upon us
and coax the days
into greening
once more

© Sarah Whiteley