William Stephenson

Bathysphere

William Stephenson

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A hundred milligrams underwater, the gig begins.

The intro music’s kick drum shakes my scales.

My gills flare orange and my fins shine pink

as a hook line reels me towards the stage. 

The musicians – packages of muscle, bone,

wire and piston, crammed into jumpsuits

hard as pressure hulls – descend on cables.

Each wears a flashlight like a middle eye. 


Hello Manchester.We are Bathysphere. The bass

crushes my stomach to a mussel in its shell.

I close my eyes and dream I’m a monkey

with limbs – how did I learn such words? –

jerking four bone-skewered muscle kebabs

in spasms resembling rhythm. Arms legs dance

I remember, or my nerves do, as my fish-lips

gulp pills down like multicoloured plankton.


For a dozen tunes or one long retreating tide

the waters of the lagoon churn to the beat.

Then the last chord dims, the house lights

burn.  My fins flutter on, sensing an engine

throbbing in the painful heavens; a ship

steering by the needle to Easter Island,

Ascension or any impossible pinnacle

where air-breathers sing, light fires, fly.


William Stephenson


William Stephenson’s first full collection is Travellers and Avatars (Live Canon, 2018). His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013). His second collection The Lotus Bunker is due from Live Canon in 2021. https://williamstephenson.co.uk