the accordion

whether the accordion stays or goes
becomes a matter of friendship –
and of the necessity or needlessness
of tokens of attachment

a heavy load can make for a longer road,
and other favors await a verdict –
whether box or bin, either out or in,
feeling and hand both hesitate

though the heart of the gift remains whole
in spite of this inquest –
true affection demands no keepsakes,
and gathers no dust on its bellows

© Sarah Whiteley

I am in the midst of downsizing for the big move next month. I find the days sliding by at an alarming rate, with still so much to do. It will all get done, I am certain – after much hard work and lots of letting go of the things I truly do not need. Whether the accordion makes the move with me? I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

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