Poems by DS Maolalai

Straightforward machinery

my mother was driving.

she’d brought me along

as insurance, because

she’d never yet driven

a van. though it turned out,

of course, that she loved it –

the height, and the weight

and their ratio pleased her,

and the road as it pressed

on the tires. headlights like chisels

knocking seashells off cliff walls.

a radio, playing old songs.

she’s 60 now, knuckle-

hard, and still very interested

in driving. loves the straightness

of roads through the hillsides

and the elegance of straightforward

machinery. 15 years ago

she taught me to drive

in that countryside. and I sat

beside her, watching rain

as it hid the horizon,

grey as the rocks

on a coastline. her knuckles,

the gearstick and headlights,

her smile as she pushed up

into fifth.


Something of the scale.

but I don’t like fishing

because I don’t like

waking early,

or doing that thing

you must do with the worms,

or what it does to the fishes

either even when you’re throwing

them back.

the way the hooks cut

and pull them, dragging

to bang and clatter

like god pulling men

from their sandals,

dropped alarm clocks

falling down the rocks.

and I don’t like

what cars do to rabbits

or especially

what cats do to pigeons,

and they say

if you handle a fish

it dies anyway,

even if you let it

get back in.

something of the scale, I think – 

oil against our fingers,

some chemical

in dry hands

touching them.


Ow ow ow

ok, so this one’s

a bit


(editor, I’ll understand if you don’t

print it)

but anyway

so, he was in bed with her,


when something


went wrong with – something

there was a snap

inside, and he groaned,


and something

was coming out

and off the tip,

but it was red

instead of milk and clearness.

and he rolled off her,

grabbing himself

and yelling the whole house down

ow ow ow.

and my girlfriend was there –

it was her friend he was with

(I hope it was her friend)

and says she was drunk and sleepy

but says she could hear

them both

yelling through the door.

and it was the skinslip

from shaft to head

that had snapped down

under pressure,

a guitar string

hard over tuned.

and he was walking around the apartment

pumping it out


like a broken toilet

while the girl

got up

all panicking hands

flapping like butterflies

and scary

with bloodborne diseases.

can you imagine

the stink

on a hot

Spanish evening?

ow ow ow.

later they tried it again

and this time

didn’t bother with condoms.

I guess they decided

they’d already had

whatever else

they were going to get.

when he left

he apparently stole the keys

so, the girls

had to change the locks

before coming back.

my girlfriend got home

and told me she was glad she was with me –

no danger of blood

from a stranger

you pick up somewhere

if you’re not single

and no danger from me



when it comes to those parts

I’m very careful.

ow ow ow.


There was weather

and in Ireland

we don’t drive in the snow,

but this was Toronto

and this was Andre, riding

slightly high after work

offering me a ride

into town.

and on the freeway

we did 80 (thereabouts)

slicing the white lines

like we were buttering toast

and chopping gray snow

with old chicken meat –

Andre lived with his parents

and spent as much on insurance

as I did on rent,

but crashing seemed abstract

when he had a car

and we opened the door

to a snowstorm –

abstract, that is, until Andre


slid forward,


and a little too casual

across the front of this oncoming truck

which nuzzled up at our asshole

light as a newborn puppy

but still enough to bang out our back lights

while the guy behind’s brakes went ballistic –

if Andre weren’t high, we’d be disaster –

as it was,

(this really happened)

he mumbled

“did you feel something?”

and rumbled to another lane.

I was still shaky

when I got out,

still 20 minutes from home

but not wanting him risking the corners


when we weren’t on the highway.

my suggestion he get some coffee

met with a giggle

as he spun.

snow trickled down,

white piles against gray

in the sight

of his tires.



walking at night

toward the kilbarrack

train station. and no, it’s not night

now, but evening, dark and dry

and cold at 6pm. dogs in all houses

going crazy with fireworks.

they start around now

and proceed into winter.

my coat is buttoned tightly. the ground crisp

and hard as an unbroken eggshell.

all orange with lightbulbs

coming out of windows. another one

goes up from someone’s house.

someone’s garden. it goes,

exploding overhead in blue,

and the clatter afterward,

like pigeons

breaking on a street in daylight

when you’re walking

and you’re walking

too close.


DS Maolalai has been nominated seven times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019). You can follow him on Twitter here.

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