Two Poems by Deirdre Maultsaid

False Dilemma

If I were watching the channel
Of oily waves
Stirring to a lace of white surf
I would see your plunging titan flank. 

Here comes the mighty briny dark, 

Leviathan, you swell, reek, 
With your either/or conceit. 

A binary will not solve the oil,
Cannot stop the Qallupilluit’s cold hand.
Can you crack the hoary ice? 
From salty lumps and fissures,
Rise like an old answer, 

You think you know your history
Glorified, deified in marble,
Harpooning the imagination,
Looming out of the jet depth, your jet glare.

Your plume 
Allows no other history. 
You are more than the stationed spruce, 

The humble oolichan candle. 

Even if you were one bead 
On the black hawthorn bush, 
I wouldn’t.  

You evangelize, 
On your Shantymen’s mission
White shirt, black thoughts. 
You the psalms, me the speechless mussels. 
Me the dead mudstone, you the lurking fluke.

I cannot grow brighter beside the epic heft,
Your headdress of rightness.  
You the screed, me the shadow.
Either you rise or you set. 
Either you kill or I forget you. 

Like all loggers 
At the campfire 
I am not baptized. 
Clayoqua me. 

How I will swim. 
Take me for a wild ride
Around Meares Island
Where cliffs fall away,
Greywacke and mudstone erupt. 

If you will show me, 
My lungs convulsing
When I cannot learn you, 
I will admit that you were all I really loved: 
Black beauty. 
Killer fish. 


He was so lonely
The day that Elvis died.

The landlady, Saskatchewanite, usually canny, 
Not taking her eyes from the TV,
Waved to the pot of coffee.

Now, he is the loneliest at the end
of the Bibimbap cart line, without a friend. 

He is not relieved by the noodles, 
Yolk love, dry, dry rib eye.  

Here in the tunnel of wind,
Beside the black mould frill.

He inhales, but his soul has no appetite.  
He is lonely even before the train doors shut tight.  

Over manhole, pothole, 
he doesn’t walk for any cure.

He has not yet
met a cemetery. 
Doesn’t chow down on smoked charcuterie,
Have a cubicle life, Chlamydia testing, or a bad cough.

No, he won’t ride his brakeless bike to take out, 
pulled muscles, tacos of pulled pork.

But, if he dips in here, harbour fecal count,
He can hear the music of a Seattle yacht.
What is more derelict than he at the old sugar port.

There is nothing lonelier
Than a grown up waitress in pigtails and flip flops
asking, “have you ever been roofied? It’s awful.”
His Coke tastes like chalk. 

All the hazing he missed as a frat boy. 
All that C.C. and ginger joyless joy.

Here’s a frazzle-haired woman in the next booth
Talking about pee wee hockey, the latest tie
While they disappear two by two
the only Canadian soldiers—ketchup, fries.  

He tries; he tries to get it back.  
He plays “Leader of the Pack”,
The Shangri-Las on the jukebox. 
He orders a breakfast special BLT. 
If only he can . . . but it isn’t true. 
He does not know the names of trees. 

Nature he knows not. 
Nothing about the Cree, really.
He’s never walked through a coulee. 

The world is on his shoulders. 
He will not meet a cougar
and be sliced open in honour. 

He is still a fries guy; could order a-la-mode raisin pie. 
But, if only he could go outside.

He can’t get back.
He can’t get out.
He is too long a member of the sugar brotherhood, 
just a low, city wolf. 
So silent—so what?—
Soulless, misunderstood. 

headshot of Deirdre Maultsaid

Deirdre Maultsaid has been published in The Barcelona Review, Canadian Women’s Studies, Canthius, CV2, Other Voices, Pif, Prairie Fire, the Puritan,and others. She has a poem upcoming in an anthology by Coteau Books. Deirdre Maultsaid is a queer writer living in Vancouver, Canada. More information at and @deirdmaultsaid