DS Maolalai (he/him) has been described by one editor as "a cosmopolitan poet"
and by another as "prolific, bordering on incontinent". His poetry has received
eleven nominations for Best of the Net and eight for the Pushcart Prize, and has
been released in three collections; Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle
Press, 2016), Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019) and Noble Rot
(Turas Press, 2022).

Not gay

it took this guy
asking twice
if I was "an
actor or something"
for me to realise
that I was getting hit on. no,
more than that;
it took him telling me,
drunk at 1 in a New York park,
that he "didn't inject no more heroin,
only now he injected meat"
to get it.

I was a visitor to the city
and didn't realise
I must have looked good
in the shirts
I'd picked out for being
on holiday.
we were in the sun
and I was trying out a book I'd picked up
for a dollar
in a bookshop somewhere.

"I'm not gay, man",
I told him, without adding
"but I'm flattered." he kept leaning over
to look at my book
and saw that it was poetry
and said
"you sure?"
good question.
but I was
pretty much.

later on
that night
I met a girl in Brooklyn
and with her
I wasn't gay
all night
but it's a year later
and I remember his conversation
better than anything
she told me
about anything.

Preparing to go out

I put on the shirt,
white and ironed
and shiny as closet-dust
in the guest bedroom sunlight
and button it almost to the top.
the black pants are a little long
but they fit me
and the jacket flaps loose
as the thin arms on a scarecrow.
I go downstairs
and do my tie up
in the bent reflections of my mother's chrome kitchen,
my face twisted to the shape of the teakettle
like ivy on a cracking wall.
I've lost weight anyway,
and it's obvious now,
tying my shoes and feeling the sleeves slide down
to above the second knuckle,
feeling my mouth going dry as my sister makes the tea.
but it's sunny
and the air in here is less dusty
and better used.
the funeral's at 2
and you'd hardly know
I'd stopped visiting.

Someone called an ambulance

blood burst like raindrops
dropping on hibiscus flowers
and popped raspberries,
red as the evening sun.

I got up slowly,
the light of Paris
stinging like a bitter drink
and fell again. my teeth
hurt like yellow
and my nose was broken
and most of my head.
spilled colour. fuck.
someone came
as I lost my hands
to the pavement
and they held my mouth open
to make sure I could breathe.
called an ambulance.

Jack was there.
Fallon was there.
Aodhain was there.
and a long list of strangers,
all very concerned.

the ground
was cold as a river,
as rain and blood and wine.
my eyes
were cut
with bits of my glasses
and smashed pavement hit. liquored up
twitched their legs in the grass,
and leaped
at their easy prey.


two mugs
Jack stirs the tea
in his lifeguard's shack.
on the sand
the waves crash
like two-tonne trucks
on a highway
and the wind
comes over the dune
with a tune
and a hand
that would mess up your haircut.

he gives me a cup
and suggests
we go to town tomorrow
and get drunk,
try to pick up
to barbecue.
"weather's too bad;
nobody ever comes out here now.
it'll be fine
if I leave
for a couple of hours."

I sit back,
and sip the tea.
it comes, hot and brown
and thick as bricks.
"I don't know", I say.
"I kind of like it
staying here."

further up the beach
someone is walking a dog
and poking the seaweed with a stick,
looking for lost treasure
and lobster dinners.
pick their way
over the wet sand
shiny as glass
hunting sandworms.
the sky hangs low
and milky grey
and sandy
and the milk he offers
has sand in it.

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