what has been lost

smoke
love remaining half-asked,
with an exile’s hunger,
what have you lost?
smoke never stops moving,
alters nothing, and
leaves irretrievably

when exactly does time
distill us down to fire?
down to accumulated passion?
at what point have we traded
the marked directions
of known constellations
for the possible light
of far, unseen stars?

I carry with me every touch,
each quiet sigh released
beside you, and have lost
precisely nothing

© Sarah Whiteley

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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