Sarah Maclay is the author of three collections of poetry—Music for the Black Room, The White Bride and Whore (all, University of Tampa Press), three chapbooks and a short play, Fugue States Coming Down the Hall (anthologized in Scenarios: Scripts to Perform).  Her poems and criticism appear in APR, Ploughshares, FIELD, The Writer’s Chronicle, VerseDaily, The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800 to the Present, The Laurel Review, Pool, Poemeleon, Hotel Amerika, Slopeand numerous other spots including Poetry International, where she serves as Book Review Editor. In 2003, her debut full-length won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry and was a finalist for the Blue Lynx Prize. She received a Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XXXI (2007 Edition). In 2008 she became the founding artistic director of The Third Area: Poetry at Pharmaka, a reading series now running at Frank Pictures Gallery in Santa Monica. A 2009 Grisham Visiting Writer at the University of Mississippi, she has featured at the California Poets Festival, the Sotto Voce Festival in West Virginia, and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; she’s been a panelist at the Napa Valley Writers Conference and a presenter at AWP.  A Montana native with degrees from Oberlin College and Vermont College, she teaches creative writing and literature at Loyola Marymount University, and conducts periodic workshops at The Ruskin Art Club and Beyond Baroque. 

Wind in the Cathedral

This breeze

makes anthems fly
through stained glass,

hymnal pages flutter
past deserted pews, like leaves,
the organ

mystify itself in skirmishes
of chords.

In that shift

when sound dissolves
and all else
falls away

we see each other

without shame
or doubt.

Who says

that at the center of this
there is not wind?

Because they lie,
or do not know,
or have forgotten.

first published in “Shadow of Light”

The Tree with Blue Flowers

There is not even fog.

Not even that fast, delirious route
into the void. Barely shadow.

Hardly even mist.

But together we stare into the tiny
clustered flowers of the ceanothus,
made elaborate in honey—

scented blue

and the moment is shaken
from daylight
as surely as if a knife had cut

it from a tree

and with it
we are falling,     slowly,

into a soft

muss of silver leaves.


first appeared in Poetry Bay


Inches from my bungalow, the hedge goes wildly
sprawling past the shape some gardener’s put it in.
The new shoots look deformed, not separating stem
from leaf. You cannot call them anything
but urgent. As you leave—as you press
your hand against mine with its gift
of pruning shears and say Go in,
the way you’d cut a tumor out

and point me towards the center of the yard
where I’m to interfere with summer,
not because we don’t want it but
because it must not take over everything—
I see you in the inches of the doorway
as the gate closes and the latch
clasps itself together. Night won’t come.
Rubber leaves blow darkly in a liquor
breeze. It is the season of the crab.


first appeared in “Ice from the Belly”


The reaching branch can only reach so far.
Ice forms on the branch and cannot melt.

The weed that sticks through snow is stiff as wire.
The snow that lands on stone can’t find the ground.

We say it is crystalline, meaning fixed,
meaning clear, meaning immutable,
coated with sugar, no possibility.

This is the way we make beauty.

first appeared in Interbang and then also appeared in the Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets 1998 Anthology.

All four poems from Music for a Black Room (2010 University of Tampa Press

Sarah Maclay

photo by Holaday Mason and DH Dowling
  2011 Sarah Maclay


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