Stone dead.


my mam used to say

each summer in the garden

that “a bee will get in your ear

and burrow down

and it’ll sting you

stone dead” – perhaps

to teach me

I should clean my earwax.

though I don’t know –

is that a common lesson?


sitting at the table

I check with my littlest finger

and pull it out

when the nail starts

to scrape. I inspect;

it mounts like a melting candle,

yellow as daffodils, orange

as the centre of a sunflower. as a child


if I saw bees

I’d run, screaming

and covering my ears. I’m convinced

she planted

this memory; once

I took my hood down

and released them, bursting with violence

over gardens

and swarming.


A full-feathered bird.


it strikes me again,

when I should finally

be beyond all that; my dad’s hands

have shrunk, but my uncle’s

are still so much bigger

than mine. and this was bandon, calling a minute

for a quick cup of coffee, and we both went

for the biscuits together;

a broken twig bumping

on a thick bag of walnuts

or a full-feathered bird

pecking at thrown out

chickenbones. that strength in there;

all farmwork and moving things – no wonder once

he almost won elections. when I was a boy

I remember his handshakes

crushed me. now 28, I guess a man,

and it still looks like

they’d hurt.


A story which went nowhere.


and so anyway,

we went on a date. she

was studying medicine

in a toronto college. I suggested this bar

in kensington, close-by to

my flat, and she came

some way to see me. we didn’t have much

to talk about, but there were raccoons

climbing the gutters

and we talked for a while

about that. and then about her college,

and my work at the hospital. later on

we went walking up spadina. slowly

we ran dry again, with the rain,

and made our way back

toward the streetcars. she was tired. I

was tired

and there weren’t any more



The piano player.


oh god,

am I a piano player?

not in the sense

of playing the piano

even though

I can do that ok,

improvising my right hand

on the 12 bar blues,

but in that

all I know how to do

is sit at home at night

tapping at the keyboard?


I wish

the piano

was more romantic. it’s no


or even being a drummer

but god

its satisfying

hearing the click of the keys

as they go down like hammers

and see the words

come up onscreen. begging for forgiveness

or rattling out a jazz. and best of all

the backspace key

which wipes out mistakes

like a rhinoceros

tearing down a village.



I’ll play my piano

to some audience

and imagine


and girls

throwing roses.


To extend a metaphor.


“Kill your darlings.

Die alone”

– Joey Comeau


the good thing

about poetry

is that you don’t actually have to. not,

I mean,

if you don’t want to.

you don’t have to kill


at all. it’s very handy

that way. forgiving.

there’s a space for everything

you think

in poetry.


the trick is


extend your metaphors,


lay foundations

and plumbing,

with plenty of room

for them to potter around

drinking tea in their dotage,


and getting in each others way.



extend it all the way out.

put in baths and elevators

and sell it to the state as nursing home.

they’ll love it there –

able to stretch their legs,

play checkers

and trip each other up

with walking sticks.


of course

there’s a good chance

if you do

you’ll have to

leave them alone

and nobody else

will want them.

like people in nursing homes again

I guess.

worn out

and ragged

and lonely on the page.


but that’s the point,

isn’t it? they’re




who shares their darling

with anyone else?


DS Maolalai has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice 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)



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