poems by DS Maolalai

Our industrial roots


we come

from two lines

of long-feuding families

and I hope

we don’t end up

ending up

the same way.


it seems like

every generation of ours

has some minor squabble

over god know what;


or parentage

or just plain blood

mentality. our mothers side

I guess

can be all too easily

forgiven. they’re from

West Cork

after all.

and pointless feuds

a growth industry.



god knows what Seo’s side did

to get so deep into this

petty shit. I’m not talking Sile.

she’s crazy, sure

but no-one

doesn’t love her.

or I do, anyway. their cousins though –

god know what happened there. mad piano playing

and tinderbox feuds in shyness

that never start properly

until they never get resolved

and people don’t get invited to weddings

and only then realise

they’re in a fight.

what were they thinking?


look, Roisin, Donal,

I can’t promise

that we’ll never

hate each other

or tear ring off the fingers

looking for diamonds

in dead parents’ clay.

I can only promise

that if we ever end up


I’ll make sure that we both know it


and until that happens

as in, right now while I write this,

I love you both

and don’t care for money

more than you

and I can’t imagine

right now

anything happening

that would change that.




A person in blue.



sequenced and clipped

ran down his arms

like frightened spiders.


and I sold this one for 50 dollars.

well, technically I sold it

but the guy never came to pick it up

nor give me the money.

this one, it’s a little busy,

nobody else seems to want it;

I might scrape it up and start over on the canvas.


he said he’d taught himself perspective

by painting down sidestreets,

watching trash and bad graffiti

vanish to a point

and burst outward.

said that abstract art

was finally dying

thank god

and representative art was making a go again.

he said when he painted a person in blue

that was representative art


because blue was the exact colour I mean,

believe me.


I said when I called something a swan

I did it for the same reason – each word is the word

and the art is the order

and the image is the image

like the spider legs

of his splayed paintbrushes.


you paint with light, I said, I try with a keyboard.


god, I was a prick. we both

were. but swans

do move like swans

and a person in blue,

images like magnificent ships in evening.

all verb, no adjective

doing things.


The anchorite.


he lay in bed

with the doors locked

indoors once

for 3 weeks at a time

until even the walls

were talking. yellow


sprayed out like smoke,

and roses

in the wallpaper

above the toilet

twisted chains

against his neck.

he’d been allowed

to work from home

a while

in the expected

bad weather,

but none could have predicted

that the storm was due to stand.


3 weeks

they were snowed in

until his carpet was kicking

like a bull at a lion

and the window

cracked cold jokes around him

and laughter

at the owlishness

of the coffeepot.


when he eventually

got out

he was clean shaved

for the first time;

blinking and pale

as an eyeless fish.

like a boat on a river

he had expected

the world would travel;

it was a shock

when the stores

were still there

in brisk business

and the bus-stop.



was how loud his voice felt

and how

it seemed to echo

when he asked for a cup of tea

and fumbled

with his change.

poems by DS Maolalai

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