placid with the mountains

I cannot be the abstract
the city asks of me

I cannot maintain the grind
of teeth, of grime –

the hot seconds stuffed
into dull hours

when I do not go out,
the ghost of going out

rises within and whispers
of how the November woods

still smell of autumn –
of how the sleeping lake waits,

placid with the mountains
etched upon her face

© Sarah Whiteley

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avalanche lilies

“Beware, O wanderer, the road is walking too.”
― Jim Harrison

the trick is to rise up
with the mountain,

and not to bring it
down beneath your feet

not all who wander
will understand this

and for this reason,
I tell no one the way

and keep the starred
avalanche lilies

for my own selfish
roaming self

© Sarah Whiteley

finding nowhere

nowhere seems a good place to go –

the sort of place where you could dip your feet
in the creek and finally come up for air

where the silver underbellies of leaves
roll upwards to welcome the rain

where the first creature I might see
might be a solitary raven

and no one but he would even attempt
to talk to solitary me

nowhere’s as good a place as any

to look for the things that don’t ever
intend to be detected,

which is all right since nowhere’s only ever
in the looking and never in the found

© Sarah Whiteley

advice to the weary

when air grows heavy and tired
from too long falling,

day’s last birds will dive down
and in rising, shake it out before them

something, at least, is vibrant
is the message beaten out by wings

when you are lost, find stone that will
hold sun with radiant stubbornness

and if you lose your voice,
seek out wide swathes of grass –

for it’s grass that sings when
all other songs have gone

© Sarah Whiteley

after Livingston

that August in Livingston,
we meant just me
and the small dog tracing
the bends in the river
into the far edge of afternoon

one of us thinking of rolling
ourselves into the landscape
for keeps just for the peace,
the other enthralled
by sudden bursts of magpies

all these years after,
I never did find the right shade
to fade into and can’t shake
the sense of going the wrong
way against the river now

as if home had quietly
washed itself downstream
and settled on a sandbar –
lopsided and forsaken

© Sarah Whiteley

for Shi Shi

fire-1347855_640

out here the rain and your book
are my only companions,

and the only thing that matters
is the campfire

and keeping the sparks (bright,
living) from too-close legs

where fabricated light cannot reach
solitude is no longer secondary,

but breathes with my breath,
and pauses in the dark –

intending everything,
but only later
— much later

© 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