"Daedaliana" by James Dunnigan

the walls are to be thirty cubits

high for three hundred cubits of length

fifty the width—the animal inside

half bull bull of a man born of that man

of a bull lots of bull

on this island generally speaking

such clichés "the beasts

outside are easy it is the beast

inside of us etc"—the Queen

you know she told me once she felt

it wasn't fair to her she said

"there was a bull in me before there even was

a bull in me" and I sort of

stood there wringing my hands I thought

it would be difficult to make

paths so they would twist over themselves like that

you know like how your guts go and I

I mean I've been solving puzzles like this

all my life but the deal

here is to make an unsolvable one

but it's easy to get lost

all you need is to sort of

copy your wander


and that's it—and you know—

at the risk of courting some

monstrous commonplace I'd say that our

strangeness generally consists

of love love is our strangeness because

we love such different things

so wildly differently they run the risk

even at most innocuous

instances (ketchup on pizza) to disgust

others against us

what you love about the smell of tar

and sewage in July

what colour makes your forehead itch

what body part you see

when you close your eyes

on someone you like

what secret satisfaction you derive

from filing your nails

what part of speech you'd like to eat

what words you'd marry

what planet you dream of swallowing

(the taste of Venus

and light under the wings of moths) our habits

of thought and movement trace

labyrinths in us—and who (we ask

ourselves) will walk in them with us?


baked brick the outer walls inside

it will be granite white

on the left and black on the right

circles of gold and silver

clouds on the left and golden stars

and silver circles on the right

and the floor I will leave barren

it will be covered in blood

and the footsteps of the slain

a world of bones will

populate it—and the poor boy

shut in there forever

as he will be will at least

have something to look at

robbed of either sky

at the center maybe

a patch of grass which would be

scales of jade inlaid

into the floor of that spot so he

can lie down in it

and pretend he is away—what does

the bull want anyway

has anyone asked him? Even his mother

(and forget his dad)


the ceiling will be blue—the sea

or the sky I guess

that will be his to figure out

I will scatter the place

with small clockwork beasts

to call his friends

a hedgehog made of sewing needles

a lobster with a brazen

shell a piglet on hidden wheels—he might

destroy them for fun

but that's his problem I think

if he wants to be bored

he can go right ahead so difficult

to please anyone anyways


you might say I'm pathetic doing this

I'm not—I am

perhaps to be pitied the least in

all this—I sit

and sketch things all day long

imagine things

and the outside world grinds on

and the scythe

of day passes over and over

the face of all

would you pity a graven face

whose eyes can

never close? do you envy

the worm for

all the ways that it can move

and twist?


one day this drudgework

will all be done

and we will make our getaway

if I must trap

this boy in the earth this way the same

way I will set

us in the sky—imagine wings

where your arms

are—imagine how it will look

the earth from way

up there—

and the light—the light I forget

a circular mirror

three cubits in diameter reflecting

sunlight to a large

glass prism the colours then reflected

endlessly along the

metal in the walls—when you think

of it the sun is

pretty plain on its own

—who asks me what I want?

(and the broken light

(who said wanting was easy?)

declensions of the sun

at an angle Ɵ where x is


James Dunnigan is a poet from Montreal, editor for Cactus Press and PhD student at the University of Toronto, the author of two chapbooks, The Stained Glass Sequence (Frog Hollow Press chapbook award, 2019) and Wine and Fire (Cactus Press 2020). A recipient of a QWF Fiction award for 'Open Bay' (2014), he also has appeared, or is forthcoming in, such places as Event, Contemporary Verse 2, Maisonneuve and Graphite Publications. Aut facere scribenda aut scriber legenda since 1994.

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