tell me

tell me what happened after you left –
of the intimacies that died
absent of ceremony, without song

the days since have been a procession
of ponderous silences, so close together
it has been impossible to speak between them

the things that should really rather
be shouted into the cavity created,
refined to echoes – but a response at least

tell me what happened after I awoke –
of the parting that halved me
absent of permission, and without bidding

though even had I shouted my atonement
while you still could hear it
no balm would have eased the escapement

the suddenness of it has exacted a void,
negative space for a familiar face,
impassable and contrary to heart’s reason

© Sarah Whiteley

cigarette before dawn

before dawn, I curl myself
into a single cigarette
and forget for a moment
that I am anything other than
lips, than smoke, than
the act of exhaling

when I write such things,
I am shifting the silences
into a semblance of meaning,
wrapping words around the hours
too late to be called night,
too early yet to be morning

and I am grateful for
the hard end of the bench
I press my back against
while I wait for something –
anything – to progress
beyond the gray plumes
that loop the air before me

© Sarah Whiteley

there is something that has been lost

there is something
that has been lost
the elms tell it
when the wind is high
and twisting through
the yellow leaves with
the restless uncertainty
of long-parted lovers
and mid-arabesque a cloud
of starlings senses an absence
so suddenly they are startled
into unaccustomed silence
while daily now the birch
weep their griefs into piles
for the dark-eyed juncos
to skitter through
casting about the damp
as if to descry what it is
we have somehow missed
there is something
that has been lost
and every bright leaf
bends to remind us what
we would know it
if only we stopped
long enough to listen
if we could only
still ourselves
enough to hear
as it slips by

© Sarah Whiteley

old friend

tonight I and the quiet
make a companion of the rain
whose soft staccato taps
at the window as if
asking to be let in
this – the first silence
in weeks – is as welcome
now as any old friend
or comfortable shoe
we fit, you see, without
straining and fill
without words (without
asking) the nooks
and bends of the other
’til I am quiet and quiet
is me and all is right
with the rain coming in
on the sill

© Sarah Whiteley