073.1: Sarah Maclay & Holaday Mason:: from “She” 073

I got in a long talk this weekend with someone about The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. We talked about discordance and the act of layering—what it means to collaborate and how things become tapestry. When we work with another, we lose a part of ourselves to create something new, something larger. The two voices either act in stark juxtaposition with the other or they harmonize. In this week’s offering from Sarah Maclay and Holaday Mason, the former is the case. Lyric and narrative modes, fragments of dialogue, other quotations, and parenthetical inclusions come together through their disjunction to create a singular work. There are moments in She where I have trouble locating myself—where the She is speaker and object existing both in the I and in the feminine pronouns. All the more disorienting is that we have two poets here working with and through each other as they explore speakers too who are wrestling with their own loss and redefinition of selves. The work is complex in that redefinition—a hollow becomes something carried, an absence becomes concrete, not necessarily a deficit nor an asset. Nik De Dominic

41                                            SM

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.”)

42                                            HM

The brightness of March daffodils shook his nervous system. Rarer,
the soft mat of what gradually became love—loomed
of a certain darkness, sweetish mossness,
the sort of place where wrecked cars lay like animal skeletons
disseminating the tree canopy as if reciting music as they rusted
into mud & for them no other spring return.
He had left his footprints in the sand
& somehow they’d stayed on her bedding.
He left a formal greeting in the tealeaves
in six languages & she understood each
as a portion of the water she sipped from a glass bowl.
Water, clean & cold           made of a river.
Water, clean & cold           made of snow.
He was without a mother & wife always.
She had many moons ago slipped into his windows
had been cleaning the dust from the picture frames, the interior images
so he could see what past, what future meant.
There was a lot more rain than either might have presumed
& she washed first her hair in it,
& then his before they slept hipbone to hipbone.
They stayed like this for hours.

45                                            HM


a dead woman is


The reverb of her thighs clasps air—

there’s an essence of mauve.

What did I say to the youngsters
I passed in the street while they leaned against each other?
Think of the soil— no, think of the vaginal holy.

My fists are gravity, purple —

what we come from & far before.
Stone & flesh, not like her, not that white, white
spun silk hair

& now, my own nether mound,

shaved bare as a child’s.
Everyone tells their own versions of lies
about love, it deepens our humors,
but I tell you,

oh, at night, my hearing is so, so accurate.

45                                            SM

If it occurs in a room, the room is white—sheer white—
and if someone walks there, the movement is purple
—almost a shadow, but sheerer.
One drop of color.
The spine
—hung like loose hose
in its socket.
Tablet of light
on a table
like a narrow moon.
And there are the fake footsteps again. A door closing.
Or someone is humming: just two notes—a step.
Not like a moon,
like a tablet.
Punctual as a clock.
And there is melody, repeating.
Repeating, not progressing.
Someone is whistling, or is it a bright
A window with no edges.
Only suggestions of edges
that continue to move.
Further away than a moon.

47                                            HM

At some point (seed)
after annual nights & days
of gathering momentum (airborne)
she grew supple.
At Thanksgiving, a friend purchased a ten-dollar pumpkin pie
& no one could recall how to cook for children.
The gynecologist made assumptions—

         that she’d been ambitious,
         had wanted no offspring & that’s why
              the husband left— as if
“The Husband ” left while he could still have another younger. The doctor did not know
         but had his ideas, his 

Waxing & waning, the weeks in numbered increments−−

one concentrates on the view, sees there the undersides of clouds at certain hours,
which give an impression of halos or the filmy gazes of infants−−
their view still on the other side.
Much confusion began with the morning of midweek (Wednesday)—but

         If she does not focus on the miles of sad hair,

         but watches instead the garden, dawn fused,
         sifting &humming through itself
(& her)
         until many hummingbirds & others begin to move
         & everything expands
         against the shawl of lavender membrane,
         that which is morning—
         if she focuses on this –as in—
              “quiet down now, be still & listen to light”
         if she does this, she WILL” quiet down now
                 & be still.”

47                                            SM

      The “whistling tubes” are open-ended

                                In the kitchen walls
      We say nothing about it
                                But don’t resist
      Permit—almost require—it, feel the hair
                                Lean further in
      On the subway, since the crowds
                                Keep it in mind, can’t bear to look—
      The vision says the problem with suicide
                                Or the voice or the dream or the middle
      Of the night, maybe getting up to pee—
                                The place is layered with voices, in
      The way the ancient wood has grown
                                Stored in the air of this house,
      I believe you could hear me; that I’d hear
                                If I put my ear to the opening
      All conversations

                                In the kitchen walls

      Moved among these rooms—

                                I smell their sweat, sharp,

      Redolent—or is it mine?

                                I feel the way the former inhabitants—

      What am I afraid of?

                                That you “x x x.”

      It takes every effort of my hand.

                                And I never say “sad.”

      Not to put that in quotes.
                                OK. You touch my heart.

      “Thanks” doesn’t cut it  

                  & I never say that word anymore: “heart”

I don’t know if I believe it, but I’ll—
                                      Break. Still, I stand instructed         
      On your arms on my arms                               
                                On the kitchen table

      Hand-carried from Africa

                                The ancient gray rock—

      Scared by authenticity

                                Into restraint.

      Seven layers of paint

                                To the marble backsplash