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).

We aim for efficiency

I interview daily
for dispatch positions,
and daily it goes
much the same.
they all have a system:
they all are excessively
proud. expect you to learn it,
type notes and track
time and track travel.
mark hours, make sure
the guys riding the trucks
are getting back in
and getting out again.

"we aim for efficiency"
well who the hell
doesn't? if you're running a circus
of course you'd say rings
must go round. there's a man
plays accordion, Nassau St,
knows two songs and goes at them
all day one after the other
and then back again.
it must be hell on the shopkeepers
but he knows what he's good at
and hits it like a rat on a switch.

the sky is so open
after you quit a job,
pure clear white from eye to horizon,
drinking wine in the evening
by your window. a horse
in a field, looking down
over cliffs at the sea.

The city turns over

like dropping a full
bowl of stew to the tiles:
life spills off stovetops,
stains everything and mobs
with the violence
of descending seagulls.
hands in my pockets,

I walk past bars open
and clusters of cigarettes
which glow like cat's
eyes on a highway divider.
someone cups fingers,
lights up and looks stylish,
draping an arm to the flame.
the mind falls apart
like bricks in a building

and now I'm the city,
walking quietly and buildings
collapse. I am the lights
crawled out of open
windows. the river
rolling forward, steady as the growth

of grass. I am plastic bags
being torn apart by foxes. old chip wrappers.
pieces of bottles
and the ends
of cigarettes. I am crumbs
of drunken vomit
being snuffled at by pigeons
in vacant shopfront doors.

A honky-tonk boxing glove kid

someone forwards an email—
someone's cousin; pianos
for sale. and I don't
play piano but wish
that I did. can manage
a note or two, starting
and stopping, in the manner
of driving with the handbrake
pulled on. and once, at a party
my friend jack was talking,
then took on an impulse;
sat down and played suddenly

blues with a butter
of jazz-time. and it happened
quite quickly—things
changed in the room.
a message from person
to person, like flags above
hilltops—a signal.
people gathered about
the piano—not to hear art
but more the way men do
at grills on hot saturdays,
or to watch someone park
cars in winter. played totally
straight, without flourish
or songbird adornment.
you could have heard gunshots
go straight through the keys—
go down from a sixgun to ribcage.
it impacts the atmosphere:

a tacit permission was formed.
we could smoke in the kitchen
while he ran out this rhythm
like trains leaving stations, like men
digging thick holes for fence
posts out west in america.
people swapped wine
in for whiskey—one girl
danced a shimmy on tiles
between pine kitchen
ikea cabinets. someone said

"was he hired for music?"—we laughed.
it was good: he was playing it
real "old pianie"—real honky-
tonk, boxing glove, saw-
mill pine, knot-wooded kid. his left
was a fanblade, and right
was a clinking of chains
or of teacups on rough
wooden tables. it's not like
we were quiet—don't
was in the performance.
hard men playing cards
in it; harder men scowling
and everyone's girlfriend in love.
and we talked and he played
like a bar in the 30s
or 40s in america, smoke hanging
to batwing and sign. and he stopped

and things went back
to normal immediately,
like dropping a bottle in a crowd
in a bar. people drifted outside
to the garden to continue
their smoking, on the beer
and the 21st century
again. a spell happened
once: I look at the message, look
at my cornered apartment.
I tap into it, forward
the email along to him; hope
he invites us around.

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