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Sarah Maclay: California Poets Part 5, Four Poems

Sarah Maclay

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Sarah Maclay

Five Poems

Is Drowning Upside Down in Stars Because your skirt flew up reversing gravity ~ Constellations lace you loose as jewels as these rare bijoux ~ Dream of weightless arms of fins in backstroke flow ~ Elegantly awkward in your improv ~ Floating through abandoned weeds in humid deja vu ~ Grass just wet with dew in barefoot midnight ~ He lifts you in the dark as you turn together under stars ~ Is the clover the stars are the stars the clover ~ Lap to rest his head to see Arcturus through the leaves o ~ Morgan Street for miles no thought of noon ~ Never will hordes of moths attack his hands if you hold them ~ Past the cemetery lit by his firefly lantern book ~ Questions settle into skin no longer a mirage ~ Slip out the door of your own soiree with him who was he with ~ Twenty-first solstice brand-new birthday-body summer-singing ~ Under the leaves his eyes are enough ~ Virtuoso he’ll say my dear virtuoso is it strange to say I’m proud of thee ~ Walk past the edges of town to the place where the night is curved ~ You need to take yourself seriously Decades to absorb ~ Zodiac is cousin of the clover the alfalfa ~ After midnight when the field becomes a fleeting waltz ~ X-ray your heart and you’ll find the dogwood the redbud ~ Forthcoming in Nightfall Marginalia, What Books Press, 2023

Real State Thou shalt hang thy blankets from a tree or thou shalt score a gig as a retail doorman on Rodeo Thou shalt cover thyself with a sheet of clear plastic and kick at the corner of Broadway and 6th, while pedestrians pass Thou shalt fumble for keys at the end of the night shift, still in scrubs Thou shalt hang a right in thy pre-owned 911 Carrera Thou shalt remove all personal belongings from thy cubicle before the end of the business day. Here’s a box. Thou shalt spring for the 27-thousand-dollar beaded gown not far from the Bois d’Argent Thou shalt prop the mattress against the eucalyptus across the street from the house in escrow, the two-story for lease, and the reno covered in Tyvek Thou shalt park thine SLK 320 under the sycamore leaves Thou shalt not be able to light your cigarette in the wind as you sit on the stoop behind the open storefront display of wighead mannequins It’s an economy storage box Thou shalt pick up the tab on the ornamental 13-thousand-dollar Buddha and that 6K bottle of scotch in the duty-free Thou shalt dry thy clothes on the guardrail in front of the Walgreen’s and Shabu-Shabu Thou shalt walk with weights in the evening as the sky turns amethyst then amber and the water comes on, inches from the rusty grass Drive 45 on the boulevard Thou shalt leave the couch and the plastic plant on the curb at the end of the month Thou shalt load the Relo Cube for pickup at Glyndon and Vienna Thou shalt live in the back of a 1950s Buick with shattered glass You can use the wi-fi at the Starbucks next to the Dollar Loan Thou might get a construction job on the northern side of the National Rent-A-Fence Thou shalt put the tents up after the shoppers leave Thou shalt no longer be able to afford the unpermitted room within earshot of gunshot and helicopter Thou shalt “join the 17 million readers who have fallen” Thou shalt try to sleep in the late afternoon at the base of a streetlamp on the hidden side of a Shell in the Marina Thou shalt lose thy shirt selling armor, rugs, and chandeliers No Parking Any Time Thou shalt stick two signs in the lawn: “house for lease” and “tutoring” Thou shalt check the stats on the listings from the last six days Thou shalt organize thy belongings carefully under the overpass Thou shalt not vacate the premises without giving a 30-day notice Thou shalt guard the tents at Venice & Globe Open door policy Thou shalt not sleep except upon a concrete floor ~ First published in Pratik: The Ghosts of Paradise. Forthcoming in Nightfall Marginalia, What Books Press, 2023

At Hawthorne Bridge Until a bear arrives, in darkness. As though the air has gotten into everyone’s clothes. Or the water has. I force myself to look away. The men walking solo. Staring into the muddy brown, the towering. That weird sense of Celan. So many posing below the promised petal canopy. Uncomfortably damp. Or that fantasy of too much whiskey. You know, there are ways. And I’m close to turning back to lie in the snow. A little too close. Or I’m shooting a video of my footsteps on the phone. Cellos, violins. Something like a carnival arrives. And what to call those sounds weaving from their strings? Black cases open. But maybe there’s another way . . . my grandfather tumbling rocks in his garage. Until the smooth stones glistened. Glistened as much as when they were submerged. Another kind of baptism. Like water without water. But with the absolution with the shine. ~ Forthcoming in Nightfall Marginalia, What Books Press, 2023

Would Not Have Seen Each Other for Years Jupiter comes. The red whips. Smoke-dusk clouds of mauve. I am the bass note, the string. You’re the finger. He says, Try to get your images from the inside. It starts small. Precise: the lingering shadow of a ghost web hangs like lichen, lifted by a fan. I tell him it reminds me of Durer’s last self-portrait: that’s how his face looks. Toward the same magnet: birds fall like ash, untouchable through blackening trees, carnelian. Here’s an image: flying back from his face; what will it look like from inside? Fire-skies of ruby, skies of garnet. Birds, like falling paper, twirl down and that’s how you face it. It starts small. Precise. I tell him it reminds me of Durer’s birds like ash, falling. ~ Forthcoming in Nightfall Marginalia, What Books Press, 2023

Draft How could it come to you, again, from such a past Or, as later, rain pelting the hut And you don’t question them— The new, temporary ditches lining the thresholds These rushes—kettle pennies clattering skylights Or now A neutral silence, just ringing Or an engine tracing the movement of a passing plane An itching hand A start How does it translate The vague sounds of distant tires A recognition: stiffness in the neck And a residue of truffle honey on goat cheese saved from a party The old red, or the muscular sable Like a cat, offering its tail Or the little trickle in the body waking itself up And tired eyes As though one could hear The sound of the dark ~ Forthcoming in Nightfall Marginalia, What Books Press, 2023

Author Bio:

Sarah Maclay’s Nightfall Marginalia, her fifth full-length, is due in late 2023 from What Books Press. It follows The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence (with Holaday Mason), Music for the Black Room, The White Bride, Whore (winner of The Tampa Review Prize for Poetry), several chapbooks and scripts to perform. Also featured in the art song cycle Identity Had Gone, composed by Kostas Rekleitis; her poems and essays have appeared in The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800 to the Present, FIELD, Manoa, Ploughshares, APR, The Writers’ Chronicle, and Poetry International, among other spots, and supported by a Yaddo residency, a COLA Individual Artist Fellowship, and a Pushcart Special Mention. Book Review Editor for Poetry International for a decade, and founding artistic director of The 3rd Area, a reading series at LA galleries, she teaches poetry and creative writing at Loyola Marymount University and occasional mini-master classes at Beyond Baroque.


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