Dementia Americana


Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 1994 (trade paper), poetry.

Reissue, Vancouver, Ronsdale Press, 2004

Dementia Americana is my only book of poetry so far. In 1995 the League of Canadian Poets awarded it the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry published in Canada. It is available from Ronsdale Press. There’s a good description of the book on their website.

Here are two free sonnets from the sequence that opens the book, “The Intervention of the Duke.”


A medieval map invites you in. Come wander. Those trees?
Each branch, so neatly labeled, is an Art, and you’ll be taught
how all the world compounded is of earth and water,
fire, air. New songs of Courtly Love are sung, and one
may learn to be a perfect gentle Knight. A Lady
named Intelligence rides her horse into the stream
that flows from Life; four quiet scholars study here:
they’re Gentile, Moslem, Christian, Jew.
Time Magazine offers us a pull-out map showing troops, tanks,
artillery, Scuds, chemical and biological warfare factories;
turn it over, see the Allied and Iraqi troops, armour, and artillery
all drawn to scale—Oh, wonderful! Before the map
can be of use, we see the slaughter on the news.
Angels, give us in our dreams the map to take us home.



There’s plenty to do without the Ninja Turtles. It’s better
to be out of work in Moundsville, West Virginia, and bored,
than to be a soldier in Baghdad and owe your life to the whim
of some miserable little turd—and American skies still bleed
beauty down the sunset over the puzzling flatness of North Dakota.
Even now, the night is preparing a single, perfect
diner in Georgia where everything will be revealed.
In a tender moment, thin as a dime, all American boys and girls
are brave and beautiful and true; angels with bent, grey wings
enfold all roads that go nowhere. Now you can forgive
each other, and neither you, nor anyone, anywhere, will ever again
be slaughtered in your beds. Learn to be harmless, for those at war
reflect each other. There’s plenty to do. Don’t trust the word
of men who stand at Armageddon and battle for the Lord.


Excerpt from Dementia Americana, ©Keith Maillard, 1994