things I cannot tell you

I cannot tell you, for example,
that I am resting against the ache
of not seeing you rise in the morning
to sip your coffee at the window

or that the prospect of you
is the hidden sun in my throat
that glows, that pulls roots, and yes,
I would joyfully plant myself beside you

and also, I cannot tell you
that you are my favorite kind of ‘yes,’
my affirmation that the mountain
will not fall from beneath me

and that the whole of my skin
sleeps until you are near enough
to wake it – that all of me resides
inside almost, maybe, not quite

© Sarah Whiteley

tangled

tonight the sun
thought to slip away
– secret, unnoticed –

but has instead
become tangled
in the branches
of the plum

which sways as
close to the glow
as it might manage –

in just the same way
I once crossed
a kitchen floor

to taste the warmth
of your torch
against my lips

© Sarah Whiteley

misinterpretation

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I perched there – my hands,
my words, undelivered,
on the edge of the porch –

I could not be otherwise,
though you were a hand’s-breadth,
(a breath’s-breadth) away

why leap only to be denuded,
disabused of what I’d only hoped
your hands had meant?

perhaps I’ve spread
the interpretation of your touch
ridiculously thin,

and shaped only future regret

© Sarah Whiteley

the waiting

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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

the departed

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your departure has the weight of ash

no longer carrying your fate,
I return to my old shape

days hold their same complexities
but night has become startlingly simple –

rucked sheets, wooden bed-frame –
there’s no need to believe in anything else

how is it that you ever fit
inside these walls? inside this time?

I was never a promise –
my hands, my breasts, my breathing –

are sovereign and whole

© Sarah Whiteley

scarcely there

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you are scarcely there –
solid only on those spare
nights when you sleep beside me

by day you fall apart –
like bread in water or
the clods of dry earth
I strike from the roots of weeds

I have come to tell you
there are no new prayers,
that what it is that leaves
us at dawn, leaves us

to tell you that some subtle thing
in our spines has shifted,
and I am unwilling now to
peel myself away from loneliness

neither of us, I think,
is meant to be one-nested,
though were we to be
taken from ourselves,

we would carry still a memory –
homage to our quiet beginnings,
a wind that tugs at the milkweed seeds

© Sarah Whiteley