Two Poems by William Stephenson

The Cut-Up Extra

You’re the star, so how do you want me to die?
Can we rough out a plan before take one?
Would you prefer my signature torso-twist
and agonized leer into the camera, fingers
bleeding ketchup as they grip the retractable
plastic sword you’ve thrust into my intestine?

Remember, you are the samurai.  Bushido,
the way of the warrior, clenches and relaxes
the muscle that pushes your blade, the axle
that connects our turning souls.  We’re fish
in the net of the universe – an invisible mesh
binds our senses, sewn by your pulsing needle.

Don’t get Zen on me, you sneer.  Just fall over.
Tumble, we’re done.  Cut.  I brush polythene
cherry blossom off my costume, metro home,
watch sweet blood swirl down the shower drain.
Shaven in my robe, I stare into the TV’s moonlight
and sneak into the last scene of Outlaw of Honour IV.

Winter.  The warlord’s courtyard.  A maple’s
backlit branches brush kanji across the moon:
Geinin, player, Yume, dream.  You hiss a challenge.
The warlord turns, draws.  The mesh tightens.
On the soundtrack, steel sings.  Goitsu, union.
For a single selfless beat I slip inside your skin.

Diary of an Engineer

As Earth receded it lost curvature and colour,
diminishing from sphere to star.  The bones
I’d seen from orbit whitened my memory:
the gold-capped incisor of the Sinai Peninsula,
the Nile a hairline fracture in Egypt’s skull,
the Himalayan line, fragile as a foetal spine.

Glimpses flashed memories of home: twin suns
rising, the glide of a bird on a gas-giant moon,
plains where purple fronds rippled, stirring
the spectre of grass.  I clung to bygone trivia:
the zing of ginger tea, a love song on the radio,
the way my wife coiled her hair round a finger.

I organized irrigation programmes, built dams,
bolted blades to dynamos to electrify our domes.
The Earth in my head shone brighter with each
strange planet we landed on.  Where oceans
glittered the red or blue of unfamiliar suns
I saw cut-paste imitations of a stolen gem.


William Stephenson’s first full collection Travellers and Avatars was published by Live Canon in 2018.  His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013), downloadable at:

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