by Daniel Stephensen


And Shiver You All The Shapes

Anguish written by someone else in MY hand,
​One of MY script variations from MY head –

Handscript of someONE else of an Other make
​Observed by No-one I perceived, overseen

By what Expression of MY eyes – who could say?
​Elephant, Medusa – Days left to vacate –

HERE I have mapped my illicit copies –
​And shiver you all the shapes of who you’ve been.

And Now I Knelt To The Corpulent Archangels

And now I knelt to the corpulent archangels FEAR and VERTIGO. Polychronology became my last religion, and I was distressed in it, and forgotten until I were visions. And now we filled with bodies. We called out the Word. I was a student of the mutterings of God, Who ever in Its anguish is most self-incurred. I was a student of Its everlasting loss. And clouds came to cry to our tireless FEAR. Unmade to ragbones we racked ourselves still tighter, and strained to hear the voices which spoke inside me: I have found you unanswered in the midst of life! There came a rainbow. It left a sick, sour tang. And FEAR gave way to VERTIGO, overbrimmed as a blank head mashed, blow by blow, into a face. I was a student of the nausea of skin. In my faith I was hot and direct as venom. I became a margin of error. Transcendence was finance for visions and madnesses – of God: I was a student of Its everlasting lens, the perfect and directionless: It stared Itself.

S’ain’t Christop’er

It’s no use thinking you could get there. You can’t.
I sure as hell can’t. You might conceive of it –

That’s all. It spread out like a soup-can moon pool,
And I looked over to it – tried to see it –
But it’s never been there. Just the thought of it.

Not to say it’s gone – it’s always never there,
Never always there; just the concept, right there,
The never of it. Like love. Utopia.
‘What do you think love is?’ the silence asked me.
I would have said, ‘Faces beat of all their spark,’
And laughed. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe
A god-damned thing I ever said. It had rained,
And the soup-can filled up with water, not fast,
It had rained for a good long while before that,
For as long as it takes to call it A Good
Long While. I had a different keepsake, those days.

The soup-can rained up with water, floating night,
Moon pool, and a mirror of the universe –

Come on in, Love, and bang me out a nightcap!
Inside this girl a soul dangled in a charm.
I knew her A Good Long While. She used to be –

I knew her, one time she was A Poet’s Girl,
He brought her odes and Ballantine and flowers.
‘What do you think love is,’ she told him one time,
She was reading him a poeming of hers:
What do you think love is in the hush of night?
What do you think when you wake in cold stillness?
‘You keep this for me,’ she said, and gave it me;
It was long gone when the soup-can filled with moon –
She was reading him a poeming she wrote:
Mirror of the universe, her kitten-thought –
The thought of getting all that way! She held it.

In our future, she told me: I want to be –
‘S’ain’t Christop’er!’ he croaked out. ‘S’ain’t Christop’er!’

Order Is That You Answer

When I was a decoy I tracked them, blood fakes,
​I tracked them and did my duty – I stopped them
​And asked the question dictated by language:
​Order is that you answer, in the name of –​

And they wailed with fear: We are still human!
​I made my notes. A hundred decoys to mark.
​A hundred today, tomorrow four hundred
​In four hours! I kept book, a hidden list
​Written out in our handscript of unknowing –

But knowing mouths besieged me​, a blame torus,
​And high on their loathsome, halitotic hill,
​Hauling women stuffed with concrete and lockjawed,
​Force-fed manna from medicated phallae,
​Came the parade bier God Of Machine Death

Glorious nation! Fire up your flag poles!
​Swiftly I went to ground. I was a decoy.
​Soon I returned to carry on with my work:
​Order is that you answer, in the name of –
​I kept my book. A thousand decoys to wake.

​A thousand today, ten thousand tomorrow.
​Decoys bubbling in deified sump holes.
​We were still human, written in unknowing,
​Marked out on the other plane of nature’s tongue.

L’avenir, c’est le présent bien vu.


The future is the present seen clearly.

— Ballanche


I wrote for God. No. I listened for God. No.
I spoke to God. No. God told me to write, speak,
Listen – No. God placed in me the holy word,

God took off one face of God, I gave myself
To the unknown – this is what I wanted,
A clarion – No. I did not instruct God:

Speak, write, listen! I wanted to give myself,
I said the holy word, the eternal word,
No! – I kissed the darkling star into its mouth.

It Came To Me To Live

It came to me to live, or to live my death,
And I chose death. It was already present,
Its loneliness flickers into light; this fine,
Frightened likeness flickers out. It had meaning,
It was not merely changing ways. In my mind –
That genius! – people were starving to death,
A third death. They were eating zoo animals,
Eating grass, gorging on soil, and each other,
One killed and ate the other – and was eaten,
By nightfall, from muffled stem through earless core.

Valued Cardholder: Come and claim your reward.
I went. It was an old trick. Whirlwinds of hope.
They were magic voices and they did not speak.
It came to me to turn over or fallow.
Dust settles on the guilt of sadness. I was
A shape of faith, a shape of fear, a poet –
One and the other – a chemical whimsy,
Inescapable, disavowed, round-dreaming,
A memory more massive than time, expelled
From the indescribable nail-fleck of all
Matter. I had no chronology. I was
A listening companion. My subject was
Anguish, my subject was beauty, my subject
Every moment of being until the turn –

I turned professor. I was the past master
Of nothing! I chose not – it was no true choice.
Against criminals I wrote my death charter.
For God in word alone I surrendered peace,
Believing in nothing – it was no true choice.
I chose not; I was choosing – I did not think;
I was thinking. The future penetrated
All thought, was in all passage, passed within me –
It turned on me to live, or to live my death,
And I chose, but it was no true choice – not I;
Not chose. My subject was thought. I was thinking.
The future clarified me into language,
And I composed what would thrash between Heavens.

There Is No Outside

I carried silence to the limit of words.
​All the guests left, no one came to feed for them.
​And I lost the skill of reading lips and eyes,
​I died out just as I was, boiled and canned,
​Mocked by science. Emulsionless, fatuous,
​Automatic dialectical response.
​These last days went on and on. Please, take your time!
​I carried silence to the limit of taste.
​All words left. A planet ringed itself with ice.
​By and by I recognised the animals,
​By and by I recognised the machines, yes.
​I added the boundaryless birds to myself,
​One black stump on each shoulder, and they had faith
​For blood, they had faith. And I carried silence
​Through chambers of cancer and tormented spines,
​Past those who prowled for my sister body –
​I tore off their muzzy faces! I did not,
​No. I carried silence to a bladed cage.
​I sang over it and drew cards, handing them
​One by one to each black shoulder. The Great Things
​Of Life. I fed us from a compost shovel,
​The birds I trained to suckle at mudwater,
​And they left. I carried silence. I dragged it
​In the mud, I dragged it and we made a bed,
​And hot rain came and ran the bed a river.
​I sailed the frightened river to a dovecot,
​Weeping like a traitor. I carried silence
​To a basin and bathed it clean to a word,
​And flayed the clean word with meaning, with traffic,
​Stripped it to silence, frail as a sugared tooth.
​I made a bed in the dovecot with silence.
​There is no outside. I cowered not to hear.

A qui me louer? Quelle bête faut-il adorer? Quelle sainte image attaque-t-on? Quels cœurs briserai-je? Quel mensonge dois-je tenir? — Dans quel sang marcher?


To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies should I uphold? In what blood tread?

— Arthur Rimbaud, Mauvais sang / Bad Blood (trans. L Varèse)

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