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

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I would I could

I would
I could stay
in those days
of skinned knees,
firefly-lit trees,
and the cool stretch
of evenings
the moon tipped all
her sweetness into
and in the far fields
chase the years
yet to come
up the grass-wrapped rise
where the stars
that held my eyes
touch and hold still
that spray of youth
when green, green
spread unending
and the honeysuckle hung
beneath the sour apple tree,
bare feet dangling
down below the boughs
without a care
for things like thistles,
or neighbors, or propriety
dear me,
I would
I could stay
in those days
where we played
evenings along the creek
so cold it crushed
the breath from our
fledgling frames,
thin as new foals
but spry as goats,
we plucked berries
as fresh as you can get
and as wild as the orphans
our mother called us
then grass was meant
for rolling down
and words like winter
and worry
were still
so very far away
I would
I could stay

© Sarah Whiteley