there's a difference

there's a small place i don't have to twist myself into a small shape to inhabit anymore

there's a way i can look at the world with bright, wild eyes

i think my eyes scared you

or rather, what they saw

maybe most of all when you caught me studying your face

maybe next of all when you saw me seeing you seeing the room

you seeing her

you seeing god

and isn't that love, anyway?

seeing someone seeing the world

really seeing someone while they're seeing the world

you were too afraid to open your eyes

afraid to look at the sun

afraid of all the truth it might tell--

and, yet, somehow

i was only ever the moon

reflecting whatever light you decided

to let in

POEMSHaley Sheffield

my old chipping, sticker-covered, periwinkle honda

has seat warmers in the summer--

unrequested but delivered by the sun

through my untinted windshield

(i always meant to get that done)--

there are no overhead lights to check my

compartments when it's dark

just a rectangular mark to show me what i could have had

with a couple more thousand dollars


sometimes rivers run down my back and i

wonder if i'm damaging my hearing

the unimpressive factory speakers

compete against aggressive gusts of wind from

semis passing by

but i think they might make a new kind of symphony

and i'm hearing music differently anyway these days

all these years of sitting in the driver's seat and i'm finally sitting in the driver's seat


this is my sanctuary-on-wheels

where i tease my hair with interstate breezes

and no amount is too much for me

i always roll the windows down

POEMSHaley Sheffield
Skipping Stones

Those were the long years

We dog-eared the pages

Got caught in the folds

And these can be hard times

So I rewind the present

Relive it, augment it

Be all of me now

The rains smooth the rocks

So I throw out my thoughts

They dance on the water

It’s gonna be fine

They speed up, they slow down

It’s gonna be fine

I breathe in, I breathe out

It’s gonna be fine

Spring - A True Story

I have not taken a breath that did not taste like flowers.

The breeze is just cool enough to send a shiver down the unexpecting and bare nape of my neck.

The sun sends its rays from 92.96 million miles away and they land on my cheeks, making them blush with the warmth of spring.


I like being here today.

POEMSHaley Sheffield

i feel
the ground beneath me
tectonic plates shifting
mountains rising
glaciers melting
oceans rushing in with the tide, outlining my feet
it is
soft grass
warm concrete
grapes ready for stomping
and the fluffy carpet i dance upon—
sometimes even take flight on—

this moment is everything
i am landing
i am standing
i am weeping
barely breathing

i am floating

POEMSHaley Sheffield

Let that light catch your eye

Let that snare catch your hip

Let that song catch your soul

Let it move you like this

morning’s sunrise moved the night out’ the sky

Let it move you like the tide

moved the sand to the side

Let it move you like his hand

moved that chill down your spine

Let that light catch your eye

Let that snare catch your hip

Let that song catch your soul

Let it move you like this

POEMSHaley Sheffield
a gratitude:
  • for my able mind

  • for my body and its kindness towards me

  • for the people i’ve loved

  • for the people who’ve loved me

  • for my father and his selflessness

  • for my mother and her strength

  • for my siblings and the unique bond we share

  • for the sun being out this morning

  • for cappuccinos and this magical place

  • for books, for words, for language, for experience

  • for the mess and all it taught me

  • for music and the way it allows me to express myself

  • for music and the way it connects us

  • for music with no qualifiers

  • for cars and the open road

  • for mountain-driving and driving into my hometown

  • for children and all they teach us to forget

  • for the elderly and all they teach us to remember

  • wrinkled hands and smile lines

  • for laughter you can’t hold back

  • for tears you can’t hold back

  • for every moment that led to this moment

  • for inhale

  • for exhale

  • for room to breathe

What does the silence say?

What does the silence say? Is the whole story the compilation of things we allow to come off our lips and the things we don’t? We’ll never know them—never know the details left missing and why. What are the options not chosen and why were they not taken? I know my own silences with intimacy and still don’t often know their origins. Are the thoughts left out moving around at a lower volume? Did I turn them down or did they enter my head that way—softly?

big. wild. hope.

inescapable and innocent and blind

and maybe ignorant

and maybe delusional  

and maybe childish,



but i cannot not. 

dreaming, reaching  

with my mind and heart— 

who do not ask my permission to

go there 

who do not calculate the odds  

who do not assess the risks involved


magic keeps moving out of my fingertips

light beams linger beneath my eyelids

and the most vulnerable of wishes finds its way onto the sound waves wriggling themselves free from my throat


can you hear it 

are you listening

do you feel it too? 

a meditation

the wishes we make

in the form of

the winds we blow on

our birthday cakes

the tears that fall on 

our pillow case

the ink we unload on 

our diaries

i stored them all 

in the tiny wrinkles on the backs

of my hands and

after a few years without sight of the promise land

they learned to dance in the curtains

call shots from the sidelines

make music in the margins

no need to exhaust with thoughts of 

what i could have been by now

or where i could have been by now

all i have is now

all i have is now

i repeat it like a wish that

comes true as it leaves my lips

needs no pension

needs no advance

needs no mention of future plans

all i have is now

and to be here, now, is

after all,

all i want.


that first hush of cool air falls over my skin

and i’m falling again

if nostalgia were a tree—

this one is red and green and bare in places

where the leaves have no desire to cling anymore

(i don’t miss you like i did before)

and all of it comes in slow

i hardly noticed the temperature lower itself

ten degrees last night while i was sleeping

and there it is, again, in my memory

rotating with the seasons

and for all that the sun melted away,

this is still frozen here

and i remember:

making three miles out of three blocks,

colors vibrating around us—

branches caught fire as we watched

the beginning of their dying

one of my favorite things about fall is when it gets so cold that the warmth of the hearth is almost impossible to walk away from.


and i don’t want to tell you

how now i relate to the restless

the reckless

the back-row sitters

the marriage-quitters

those bankrupt on friendship

with blood on their hands 

and knives in their backs 

Is this what growing up is?

place an ad for my innocence



last seen on

what i’ll tell you is

the way that it 

looks from where I’m standing kneeling—

through a hundred, a thousand more eyes—

feels a little more like

a kaleidoscope 

and for all the deferred hope

i wouldn’t change this view for the world 

so help me space God

i’m a sleepy baby

wearing crooked shirts

and my hair looked

okay in the front

but apparently could house some

rats in the back

and why do they call it a “rats nest”

i wore lipstick 'cause it’s monday

and i’m conflicted about recovering

from the weekend or diving into work

half-assed, full moons 

have their way with me

it’s not like my body’s a match for the mass

or the speed with which the spinning globe i’m standing on

and the night light circling it

waltz around each other

so i’m caught up in this space-dance

my cadence a little frantic

my mind a little lethargic

my body a little like a puddle, but with blue jeans on

so help me space God


i want air that’s hardly cold

blowing on my face

the kind of cold that feels warm every few seconds

i want to roll the windows down while it’s raining

let tiny goosebumps dance with droplets on my skin

i want the green on the trees to look blue

and for everything else to look grey

i want to play music that sounds like they’ve felt their heart break

and snuggle up under a light, soft blanket of sad

on a perfectly happy day

take-off from tokyo


listening to frank sing

white ferrari

drinking jasmine tea,


the ocean expands beneath me—

more blue than i’ve ever seen—

catches the light in my eyes,

turns them to soul-deep wellsprings

and my eyes—glistening—

surprise-blink feelings out of them,

streaming liquid gratitude

a tear

for existence

a tear

for the mystery of it

a tear

for the way i lack importance—

a weight lifted, perspective given

a “stick your head-in-the-clouds” prescription

we. are. so. insignificant. from up here

a tear

a truth:

i matter so much to a few of

those tiny specks on the ground

who likely aren’t thinking of me at this 4am hour

(but maybe dreaming)

30,000 feet below

where one touch of the hand is enough

to make your world explode

back into the stardust we’re made of

and so it’s here—

forehead smushed against the window of seat J, aisle 54—

that i think-whisper a new promise to myself:

carry your life with a lightness,

but give it permission

to fly


elasticity isn't a thing

i paid attention to when i was four

maybe in Play-Doh

but in my face? who wants a stretchy face?

my wounds don't heal as quickly as they used to

and i have a nervous habit of picking

that i think i'm going to have to quit

because concealer isn't cutting it

and bleeding in public is far less acceptible

when you're almost thirty

i think i'll try to moisturize

some buoyancy back into my brow--

mom always said that was important

that i'd "understand one day"--

what i understand at this point is that

in the battle between sky and land,

the ground surely has the upper hand

and is all this lotion really a match for gravity?

no degree of hyaluronic acid is going to change the fact that

i am a person stuck inside of a skin

dependent on this body to draw a picture of who i am

each decade spent circling the sun

will likely pencil a few lines across

this degenerating canvas

this morning in st. augustine


the cicadas orchestrate

a song buried in my throat

vibrates in my chest

my brow sweats

my hands

my thighs

and i

inhale as their violins swell

exhale as they come to a whisper

you belong here 

the earth, heaving



the sky’s never light, you know

it’s just the sun hitting it

we’re sitting by the ocean

embraced by the morning

the air sticking to our skin

salt and dew

i watch the tide step away from us— 


get lost in thought wondering

how my body of water— 

70% they say— 

might be ebbing and flowing on the inside too

and everything is alive