Selected by Bunkong Tuon, Poetry Editor

Sarah Maclay: “Ode with a Moan in the Middle”

Ode with a Moan in the Middle

Everyone stayed safe in the closed mouth,
the tamed / the ironed hair, the well-made
image, cage of no breath, the demure. I did, too.

What had my body become but a scaffold
for work, for holding down lies?

For depriving myself of the truth.

So unlike that poet/priestess photo on the web:
Buddhist shaman in her shaolin, such bright red, that robe—

arms outstretched, her voice outstretched, some tonal jujitsu
so intense the camera records her as a blur: yelling or almost yelling

near-nonstop and it’s not that I yell
but that, midsummer, in some act of half-illegal and untethered grace,

I realize I have actually loved. And it’s like some layer of skin rips off—

final and fast as a car door pulling off the whole front of my body—
flung off, in the genius wind. Air gets in. And everything in it:

chime-rustle, wind-slip of leaves, whole sashes: trees.
Every glance of light, each slant of the sun’s illusory movement—

or rather the real, the actual movement of the earth.

We have made our own containers, cages. They agree
with the necessary boundaries, the conventions.

But even the moon refuses to stay halved
and how can I ban the moon?

Woke up feeling you near, somehow.

Wanted to hold you close in this intimate gray,
dust the darklings off your shoulders. Heal you.

By autumn, air and light so perfectly in balance I can feel a texture—
I could wade through equipoise with you.

The light right now, hitting the low eucalyptus leaves . . .

there’s a gentle demand in that light: it wants to be shared.

Night like tulips—
so much opening to you.

Then that dream of waking to your hands—
somehow, you’ve slipped in.

How you kneel above my waking body on the bed.
How my body turns.

As though your face is in front of me. Right in front of me.

And how do I know, in that other dream: the large house is the wrong house.
I choose the smaller one, the one with “character.”

Once I begged for no ring, just to feel your skin, but now I’d wear one
just to get the world off my back.

Even if I touch your skin only in dreams.

Even if it’s time to live in a forest, barefoot, like that famous German poet—
gathering mushrooms quickly, throwing them into a pile on the table,

telling us why and how and when they’ll change color,
all their stories, their mythologies, their tastes.

Even if my lovers are the trees.

Love, I’ll oboe the low long round slow sound for you, oh you—

and I’d do any, anything to loosen my tongue.


cover of Nightfall Marginalia by Sarah Maclay
Nightfall Marginalia by Sarah Maclay

Purchase Nightfall Marginalia by Sarah Maclay


(Featured image from Pexels)

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