Sarah Maclay









Because identity had gone


                            And no one was waiting


(There was no garden, no stair,


There was no snow)—


                            Someone, for instance,


Would not be able to hear


                            Callas whisper


All the familiar objects


                            Had been removed


There was the sound of traffic—


                            But in the morning of a foreign city


Under the upturned corners


                            Of the mouth


What was there


                            When the muscles went


Why would no one


                            Speak about it


It was not a dilemma


                            But a state


Air was moving


                            Through the scarves of women


Seen from the bus—


                            Through cypress,




                            People held their clothing on,




                            It was hard to know


What to hear


                            Was a film already empty


The script had been written


                            The sound of birds


Infiltrated me


                            A huge, swaying texture


Like Beethoven


                            Soaring out of the Schonbrunn


A moving curtain surrounding the windows


                            In and out of sleep


Walking silently through trees





It’s a cliché to mention the disappearance

into the river-like-wine


where echo means something that happens over and over.

I could almost lean over the bank


where the bodies float up

and, without knowing, I’ve scraped the mud off my boots


into the butterfly layers of skin

and into their hair.






Without remembering exactly when, I knew she had described (or was about to) a woman whose hair would resemble a hive—I imagined it sleekly pulled back and up from the center, held a little tight by pins invisible to the eye, could see her sea green eyes, a nose a little wobbled on one side, no make-up—very large hair. The woman seemed as brash as a parrot. Vibrant—yet, a stranger. That is, a woman known only from the outside. It was peculiar to imagine her as a neighborhood fixture—like, I suppose, a street lamp or a telephone pole—that I had not seen. Had not seen but, still, could imagine, though probably wrongly, the face very clear but for no good reason—reason, as in sight. What this brought to mind, instead, was something equally missing: in moments, in the wrong season, among palms, while moving among the summer-shuttered houses, walking in an Ohio winter, trees impermanently bare except, perhaps, for catkins, and a hope born out of cold blue. And white breath. I say “hope” (for tonight, there seems to be an “I”) without the slightest hope of finding the word I really mean—hope is as strangely fitted, as a cloak, to the breath of experience as the appearance of the woman, fitted, even in the imagination only, to her self.






The dark space was now in a hollow—a sort of gully—rather than a spike

as though she carried it around in a purse

except inside herself—maybe the gully was located somewhere

in the chest (she had confused hyena with pariah or

they should have been confused)

and it would be interesting to know


(“there was only one hate on top of the table”)


if this was what they called, officially


(“in a serious of jumbled thoughts”)


“depression”—or just a bunch of masks on the page


(lifting the hem of the photograph’s gown).


(I meant “marks.”)






INFO: “7,”  “20,” and “32” are collected in The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence (What Books Press, 2016), a braided collaboration of poems with Holaday Mason. “7” was first published in Superstition Review, “20” first appeared in The Laurel Review, and “32” was first published in The Offending Adam, though these identifying numbers have changed.













Sarah Maclay is the author of Music for the Black Room (2011), The White Bride (2008) and Whore (2004), all from U of Tampa Press, as well as three chapbooks and, most recently, The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence, a braided collaboration with Holaday Mason (What Books Press, 2016).  A 2015-2016 City of LA Fellow and the recipient of a residency at Yaddo, she has also received a Pushcart Special Mention and the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. Her poems and criticism have appear in The American Poetry Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, FIELD, The Best American Erotic Poetry: From 1800 to the Present, Ploughshares, Poetry International, where she served for more than a decade as Book Review Editor., and elsewhere.  A native of Montana and a graduate of Oberlin College and Vermont College, she lives in Venice, California, teaches poetry and creative writing at LMU, and conducts Mini-Master Classes at Beyond Baroque.


Articles similaires