losing my keys

livingston

keys lie nestled
in my right pocket
where they can remind
fingers that there
are roots to be had

connections that
cannot so easily
be pulled, no matter
the direction taken
by forgetting feet

which ride out strange
asphalts, and long
grasses, stretches
of sky so wide we
all lie swallowed by it

shadows in the valley
call out to the mountain,
where I’ll one day
just let these keys
slip out unnoticed

ah well! someone
will undoubtedly
find them and send
them on their way
back home again

© 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!

I might sleep better…

if I could unravel the day
at the end of it,
let it hang out the window
and weave itself into the wind

let the crows take what they may
and drag the bits away –
to line nests and tumble down
the sidewalk at dusk,

a curious thread of red
for wandering-hearted walkers
and transient orange cats
to watch and wonder at

© Sarah Whiteley

Check back later this week for a giveaway! I’ll be posting details on how to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of my little poetry chapbook, No Direction But Home.

Sweet Jenny

oh laddie, why d’ye wander
when the hearthlight’s waitin’ by
and yer Jenny’s at the window
wi’ a bright and hopeful eye

ye’ve a fair and gentle lady
attendin’ to yer care
oh laddie, how ye’ll ken her loss
when yer Jenny isna there

the goats are in the sweet hay
and the geese are in the pen
and Jenny’s waitin’ at the door
’til her laddie’s back again
’til her man comes back again

oh laddie, why d’ye ramble
so far from yer lassie’s side
for ye’ll ne’er find sweeter kisses
nor a more beguilin’ bride

yer feet are set to amblin’
a path ye canna keep
while yer Jenny’s left to pinin’
and wonderin’ where ye sleep

the trees are turned to russet
and the frost lies in the glen
and Jenny’s waitin’ by the door
’til her laddie’s back again
’til her man comes back again

oh Jenny, wait no longer
by window or by door
for yer laddie’s gone to strayin’
and ye’ll ne’er see him more

sweet lassie, tend yer garden
and mind yer baby fair
forget the lad who’s scorned ye
there’s none but sorrow there

the barley’s newly greenin’
and spring lies in the glen
sweet Jenny’s left the dooryard
and she’ll ne’er come back again
she’ll ne’er come back again

© Sarah Whiteley

a song of home

song in silvery descent
beats in sweet repeats
the tug of lodestones,
the clamant lure
of westward-leading
winding winds,
I sing the binding beck
of springing grove
and blooming troves of heather,
let the tune renew
the sweet enchantments
the road has written
upon my straying shade,
in engaging turns,
in immeasurable measure,
render the notes that lead
back beyond between
to that garden without walls
and the elemental charm
of the wanderer wending home

© Sarah Whiteley

home

in the hollow house
the drapes hang empty
and vases hold dust
where lilacs once were propped
by careful fingers
that chair
has always sat vacant
though the only two who knew
have gone somewhere on
the winds
have scattered weeds
into the garden
where she left rue
and forget-me-nots
at the time
without thinking of regret
or of forgetting
the clouds
have cast his shadow
from the corners
and the rains
have run her fleeting footprints
down the drive
past the evening songs
of the frogs in spring
she’d pass them
listening to the patterns
and plays of drops
on her umbrella
her mind a mass
of green and grey
the encroaching signs
of wandering
and winding wants that wakened
with the awakening earth
they grew so bright and rampant
alongside the buttercups
until her breath was tight
and pained her
and she could no longer
share her air
but there beneath the pine
above the brambles
and the sweet stars
that have long wound themselves
into the grasses
so long as he lies dreaming
she recalls the hollow house
with the crickets calling
beneath the porch
as home

© Sarah Whiteley

wanderer’s refrain

in delight
we paint the dark
from night descending
and fold tomorrow
into the tide
wandering feet
forget to dream
of horizons
other than home
and words
beat as moths
against the light
of the breath
from your lips
pull the roads
right out my heart
and startle the stars
down from the sky
the moon forgets to rise
feathers forget to fly
but I –
I recall the shine
of our limitless mind
and the shadow
we cast over time
over space
over these words
of mine

© Sarah Whiteley