Anne Whitehouse


The sound could be long and drawn out
like a hissing wind—
or short and staccato
like eruptions from the gut—
I don’t know how it started
among us four siblings
but I know how it grew.
It sounded like so many things—
fear, enthusiasm, excitement—
but what it really meant was danger.

We thought it kept us safe
but in the end
it prevented us from saying
what we wanted to tell each other.
I think we were afraid
we would speak truths
that we could not unsay
about our parents and ourselves,
and love would vanish like evaporation.
And so one of us would go,
e-e-e-e-e-e, and another
would pick it up and carry it
like a round to the next.

The themes and variations
kept us going for years.
It meant everything,
and it meant nothing—
our secret childhood language
unleashed of words—
an unbearable sorrow
without explanation.


Anne-Whitehouse-20151013_123352Anne Whitehouse is the 2016 winner of Songs of Eretz poetry prize, Common Good Books’ poems of gratitude contest, and Loudoun Library’s RhymeOn! competition. Her poetry collections are The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, One Sunday Morning, and The Refrain. Her sixth collection, Meteor Shower, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press; her novel, Fall Love, will appear in Spanish as Amigos y amantes by Mundi Books.

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