a poet’s levy

certain books stay hidden –
those in which loss and love
exist without conclusion

and at times I may crack them –
draw new maps to old places,
new creatures of known constellations,

and let the moon out into the room
once more, to rest on shoulders
that can bear the additional gravity

a tolerable price to pay
for the pen to be able to say
“I survive! I survive! I survive!”

© Sarah Whiteley

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down east

it was late November
when I drove toward Maine

I still hear how the wind
tore across the highway,
rattling doors and nearly
blowing that tired red Buick
into the frozen ditch

I had second, third – hell
sixth thoughts on the other
side of the state line,
but I kept right on –

forward was the only
way left even though
the pines all pointed
back the other direction

a body ought to listen
to things like weather
and the wind and when
either one isn’t at your back,

it might be that’s a sign
you should turn right around
and that just maybe somewhere
down around western Mass

a right instead of that left
might not have inflicted the kinds
of change that would alter the slant
of a year’s share of wakeful nights

but winter’s nothing way up there
if not a lesson, and my toes
nearly froze during that storm
when I tried to find my way

five miles on foot up that hill
to somewhere never home
through fourteen inches of snow
in flimsy shoes with branches
dropping shrapnel all around –

a few other things nearly
froze over, trust included,
and it’s a wonder I thawed
out at all and can carry on

as if it was nothing more
than a freak nor’easter moving
through or a turn in the wrong
direction against the wind’s advice
two hundred or so miles back

down east was the only place
I’ve ever had to lie to live
or pick a lock to save my own skin
five degrees below zero –

twenty minutes spent just chipping
at that ice to use a bent hanger –
something I used to think only
worked in the movies but prayed
to God it could be otherwise

in the end hope won out
and I fled west with a new
appreciation for thick soles
and the warnings pine trees
and a good strong wind
might heap at a vagrant’s feet

but these are the things
I don’t speak of

and thank-the-lord don’t often
think of, save now and again
when a freezing wind
rattles at my windows –

some frenzied remnant
fighting to be let back in
and sometimes –
the old familiar ice still
finds a way beneath the sill

© Sarah Whiteley

Know this is outside of my norm, but have been wanting to clean the cobwebs out of this particular closet for a while now. Wrote this years ago and never posted it as it never felt “right” – but have reached the moment when I’ll tweak and peck it at no more. And in return, it will tweak and peck at ME no more!

*

listening to the day’s
wakening heartbeat,
the unseen thrush
trilling in the still-dark
before the January dawn,
I can almost sense you
turn in your sleep –
and this is my survival:
even in the act of leaving
I am always coming home

© Sarah Whiteley

In one more short month, I’ll be heading (again) into lengthy workdays and ungodly hours. Somehow the thought of it is even more difficult this time around knowing there’s a warm and wonderful soul waiting for me at home. And yet… there’s a warm and wonderful soul waiting for me at home! How lucky am I?