Thursday, April 24, 2014

Randall Stephens' obligatorily leftist ANZAC day thing that you won't like -25/04/2014


Wrote a rant last night collecting some ideas I've had recently about our telescopic view of history, and war specifically. It amounts to a polemic speech, which I read out at an anti-war gig this afternoon, but for presentation's sake here it's been formatted into a poem.  I don't think it functions that way for the most part, there's no subtext or any underlying dramatic questions I'm trying to present here. It is, just for once, what I actually think. 

Hopefully that has some value for you.


I respect the veterans
but what is bullshit now
was still bullshit back then

one of the particular intellectual sicknesses
national patriotism causes
that consumerism worsens
is a notion that society comes fully formed
that the fights fought for freedom within it
are the same as struggles soldiers overseas
fought for

this country's freedoms
were not fought for by soldiers
but by suffragists and trade unionists
by feminists marchers and socialist agitators
aboriginal activists, student radicals
and striking miners

the things we value in our society
were things people took from
that people fought for
in opposition to our own government
these we do not call wars

the idea that the world wars
Vietnam, Iraq or wherever else we sent
these poor young men and women
for military engagement
has anything to do with egalitarian democracy
is just not true

war is the biggest waste
and most damning failure
a civilization can ever stumbles into

war creates nothing
costs so many million innocents everything
scars generations and whole landscapes

and anything we manage to get out of it
from radar to Velcro
speaks more to the ingenuity of people
and their in-suppressible
to make the best out of something bad

honour your ancestors
try to understand your history
our history, but please
don't try and tell me
Gallipoli was about my freedom
or East Timor, Fiji, South Korea,
South Africa or Iraq

the conflicts that shaped our lives
were all wars fought within our own borders
for an eight hour day
for a minimum wage
for women's suffrage
for the recognition of original inhabitants

and these struggles continue today
for a free press, for clean water
free from coal seem gas fracking
for superannuation, health care
and for irregular maritime arrivals
to be recognised as human beings

these all are conflicts
fought against our own government

this is not to dismiss or denigrate
the hardship, sacrifice, pain,
duty and bravery displayed by those
in the military
but what has been spun out of it
leaves us all out of control

within these national borders
what is bullshit now
was still bullshit back then
veterans left everywhere,

Lest we forget.




Were Great Up There -24/04/2014


Thanks for listening.

the only thing I can think to say
when someone comes up
to compliment me
after I do performance

it seems important to say that
and also mean it
also what else do you do

funny off stage though
nothing to say afterwards
nothing important
or particularly interesting

you want the pretty girls
to (want to) touch you
you're a net of exposed nerve
-ends and libido
or sick with anger, getting mad
that more people don't come up
to talk to you
you scowl like you know how to.

never occurs to you
that they are shy too
that you're intimidating
that they don't know
what to say to you

if I knew what to say
to people
I wouldn't write poetry

people wouldn't want to talk
to me, as much, I think
I offer remarkably little
as a person
except my opinion

there are some parts missing
from my personality now
that would make me
a better more caring
more sensitive person
but by the same token
their absence
doesn't bother me

the part that's shy of public speaking
and posing for photographs
and saying no to people
and saying yes

an interest and talent in talking a point
puts you in a funny position
people will want more of you
than there is, and get mad at you when they discover it's not there

Fuck you.
Fuck me.
Fuck them.
Fuck it, let's dance.

our four stages.

wearing a safari hat
used to be enough separation for me
from me

things caught up
people catch on
and you can't just be yourself
because you wouldn't be a fucking performance poet if you just be yourself
I forget these things
and repeat the cycle

later this year I will meet my idol
number one source
the most influential poet in my life
he is from Texas
we will do a gig together
in Sydney

I have spoken his words out loud
while looking at Mount Everest
the edge of the Algerian Sahara
and while falling out of the sky
from fifteen thousand feet

...and I will have nothing worthwhile to say to him

it will hurt a little, probably more everything worth saying between us
already got extracted from our lives
and used here

maybe I will just get a photo
with my new buddy instead
then I will go chase at pretty girls
give up, get drunk
think I'm famous
inside a very small room,

thanks for listening.





Friday, April 18, 2014

Randall Stephens' offensive Easter blog post thing -19/04/2014


It's Easter. This weekend I had wanted to write something thoughtful about Jesus, and how much I actually dig the New Testament (at least the gospels anyway), from a secular/atheists perspective.

But here I am in the middle of it, hungover 3 days in a row now on a train on my way into the city to do something illegal a small group of friends who don't know my name, having had a conversation with my lady-friend this morning about how that wasn't someone's cock in my mouth and trying to read Hunter S Thompson (Generation of Swine) but can't pull my crash-scene gored aftermath of a brain together enough to turn these yellowed pages or hold a thought.

As far as Christianity goes, I made my lady-friend watch Matrix 2 with me a pointed out how much correlation Keuno Reeves is given to Jesus.

This was a few days after some joke references I made in a poem about the road to Damascus. But my name isn't Saul and I've never fallen off a horse. Or gotten on one. And no one gets these references. Because they haven't watched Ben Hur. Or that Max Von Syndow one.

One day I want to ride a donkey into Jerusalem though. But only if I can wear a stupid T shirt or a dress. Singing Tool lyrics. Hunter would approve, I know he would. I'm still thirty-three years old for another week.

Thought about converting to Islam when I was nineteen. But right now I just want more chocolate. Fuck The Pope.

Jesus, for a sinner like me, it comes down to this. I think you're a cool guy. I just don't like the company you keep.


Like my life is a metaphor for... -18/04/2014


wanted to make a metaphor
out of not making enough

like I had too little oil in the pot
that you could call black

like I didn't heat it up enough
even when I saw the smoke

like I'm not sitting here
crunching on kernels

like it's more than I can chew
like I shoulda coulda woulda
listened, before they hatched
I mean popped, oil and water
like I am what I'm not eating
half fool bowl now empty
now lonely now hungry
now all wounds salted
shakers and mistakes
wanting, so much this
to mean something
to someone, else

to make metaphors
out of this
though all I really did
not make enough popcorn

not much you can do with that.





Monday, April 14, 2014

Touch, Talk, Retort - 15/04/2014


sometimes you bump into a person
who believes they should have
made an impression on you
it seems to be your fault
that they didn't

what impression
I've made on them
I do not know
let alone understand

once I got so excited about
having my long-neglected bike fixed
that I wrote about it
like she was a woman
I mean it was

since then I'm someone writing
someone people want to talk to
whenever I write something
I imagine it hitting a chord
stirring a laugh or a thought
transplanting an experience

even my many statements
expressing misanthropy
or rejecting people outright
are ultimately messages
I hope resonate with some
of those same people

I've been held responsible
for the negative interpretations
others made out of my work
things never intended in my words
and then had to wonder
why they watched me in the first place
where the same energy dissipated
when, in so many words
I put something positive out there

out there
I have no idea what they want
from me
and the barest sense of
what I want from them
a talk
a touch
a retort

out there
a landscape of faces
to swallow up all the unpredictable
consequences that occur
when I meet someone
when I say something

this is a message I wrote
I wrote it for me, and you

My name is Randall Stephens
it's is a name I gave myself
I've been labelled things
by others, my whole life
figured I could have a go
at labelling myself

your name is (yours)
I may or may not
remember it
depends on the distance
between us
(there may be a distance
between us)
I like to say things
into this distance
words may or may not cross
the distance between us
I don't mean you any harm
I think

I don't understand
all the consequences
and so don't always accept them
I may not understand
all the words we use
but I'm getting closer
I'm going that distance

it's worth trying to
at least
this is the impression,

people have made on me.





Sunday, April 13, 2014

While You Can -14/4/2014


there are fifty push ups
straight back, nose to the floor
hiding somewhere palms down
plush in the soft of that rug

there is ten whole years
of new ways to think
lost somewhere amongst
that unread book pile

there are miles stretching out
untold in the quietly lubricated
movements of this bike
it's silence speaks to me

to look at you'd never see

thousands of kilograms held
up lifted in weights sessions
waiting sore in my shoulders
after slump-hard breath,
eight whole kilograms extra
waiting bodily to disappear
from under shakes and sweat
in my daggy track pants

a decade of concrete story
still not as yet discovered
in the constant clack
on this pounded keyboard

a score of lovers
to be untangled
from this tongue
inside my mouth

there are future friends
stuck to that unfolded map
a home resting-right
just behind my eyes
infected anger in my joints
with the pains of things
made impossible by age

failure loneliness
discovery apathy
choose life, abuse life
lose life, whose life?

looking for things yet to happen
things you can't actually see
except in a game the future plays
of tracing your disappearing act
from this world
in a tattoo invisibility-inked
on the exposed skin
of your fleshy imagination

unsure about until they're done
finding these things
eventual /perpetual
impetuous towards fate
that is, kid

'long as you're not dying today.

Friday, April 11, 2014

y/n? -9.04.2014


I click on 'YES'
when the machine
asks me
if I want to-

shutdown the system

it is this way
that I finish

with today




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

self serving with many glaring omissions -10/04/2014


repeating offender
with straight sarcasm
a fair weather enemy
smart for a moron
quick to misunderstand

coherent mess
a failed un-attempt
by a champion loser
and confessed liar

humble ego maniac
unenlightened self-interest
in a conflict of disinterest

acquired distaste
arts patroniser
filthy cleaner
and incompetent task-master

nice for an arsehole
sweating in the rain
with sad laughter
but so much younger

than he used to be





The Game Hasn't Changed -9/04/2014


walked lazy crooked
'til the music stopped
now we're scrambling
unfriendly desperate
for each others seat
and this game is only fun

when you're winning.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Your Writing -9/04/2014


"Bad artists always admire each others work." -Oscar Wilde

it's a conceit to believe
you're writing just for yourself

it's a monumental cop out
to simply write
what you think
others want to hear

it's a fallacy to think
your writing
is simply too clever
for people to understand

it's a delusion to hope
your writing
ever finds it's audience

it's a mistake to want
your writing somehow
to become important

and it is a gift
of immeasurable value
if someone takes the time
to read
or listen
to you

if anyone of these above
is true, for you
they probably all are true

even what contradicts
all that can be said
with certainy
is that you are writing

that is the only
irrefutably good thing
you can do, you are writing, aren't you?




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Join the Dots -7/4/2014

no telling where the dirty mattress
left on my driveway had came from
but the way I join the dots... yeah
fucking hate my neighbours

even if it wasn't actually them
and even if it hadn't been pissed on
wanted to piss on it myself
stick it over their fucking door

luckily for both me and them
I have my Dad's ute
to get it away from here
before I can stew on it
figure on my way to pick him up
I'd dump it in wastelands
behind the airport
to hell with paying
City Councils get enough money
out of me as it is
or some other equivocal shit
I don't know

killed a lot of time behind the airport
to avoid paying for parking
it's vast and quiet and dark
and an ex-girlfriend
and I used to fuck near this one fence line
and it was hot and when I got there
I saw a sign saying
'area monitored, no dumping'.

I remember stockinged thighs
steamed windows
rocking suspension
stupid Bloody zips
and the scaly sounds
of barb wire fence shaking,
but not that sign

we never got caught

but the sign doesn't say no fucking
and factory lights over the hill
make me get nervous

the lid of my fathers car
sits pensively up
a crocodiles waiting jaws
or an open fly's zipper,
and I feel exposed

drive further down the road
running late now
throw the filthy fucking mattress
over some filthy fucking paddock fence
it wasn't hard
I didn't feel guilty
not really

Dad talks to me about his trip
to Papau New Guinea
(he installs IT stuff for bankers)
and all the big business over there
mining and cocoa and forestry
how all the locals are dangerous
how he had to stay in a compound
when not working
how one of his co-workers
got a machete to the head by the locals
and had to fly home

I taunt him it that it sounds like Avatar
he doesn't take my meaning
about bad-guys and maybe
these people and places should be left alone
he says the missionaries
did the real damage over there
and we talk about Aztec books
being burnt by good Christians,
and the new exhibition
as I turn onto the freeway ramp
we're now talking safer territory

he's not mad that I'm late
because I told him about
the illegal dumping, he approves
because he hates city councils too

he tells me about barb wire
being a way of life over there
as it probably is in Africa too
(dad's never been to Africa, far as I know)
then he rants about Manus island
not being so bad,
better than the jungle
and I wiggle in this seat
saying nothing
he knows
the work I did with refugee
but not why

I know
the work he does means
Dad pays more in tax each
than I earn
each year
and he joins dots... differently than I

he's in a good mood
glad to be home
out of danger
rubbish we talk
dark and oh so empty out here

wonder if someone
did piss on that mattress
if someone ever saw us fucking
if there are tapes of it
wonder if I'd watch them
given a chance
or if I got busted
dumping out here
or why I ever bother
arguing politics in the abstract

nothing means anything
or holds points together
like a closed mouth

it's dark and late
the only point I have to make
is a home address
the only dots I have to join
are freeway light
these are running
along all the barb wire fences
blurring inky-blue-dark
out the window

alongside us.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dicks - 30/3/2014 (World Naked Bike Ride, Melbourne)


sixth time I've derobed
to do Melbourne's
World Naked Bike Ride
why why why

it's as close to tribal as I
get stripped down
painted up
get a sun-kissed
voice booming sacrament
fist-pumping in photograph

public oh so public
a city so glad to see us
skin sticks to me
whole city blocks
of broad smiles
and cheers

thousands upon thousands
of Asian tourists
clamoring for pictures
swarm around us
confusion translated
through their camera lenses
as "Welcome to Melbourne"

we were a sight to see
all jiggling
swinging moving parts
slogans on skin
rolls of fat and laughter

be lying if I said I wasn't
looking at some girl's arses
also be lying now if I said
I wasn't liking
being looked at
especially by
some of the same

especially all the while
as those odd few
angry men
in angry cars
rolling down angry
double-chin windows
to yell
poofter faggot bastard
at us

laughing all ways down Lygon
we wonder why the sight
of a few small penises
creates such a BIG problem
for them

how and what and why
the space these things
threaten to take up
inside the minds of these
threatened men

the time we men spend
making our penises
everybody else' problem

we're used to seeing women
com-modified bodily
tits and arse are used
to sell us things
like a lifestyle, to us
and back to themselves

it take balls to...
...make testicles a proverb
for courage
but then the big men
screech hysteria
when the see some

my balls you cannot buy
this ride you cannot pay for
and no one is selling it yet
my body
our bodies

guess no one looked
in their bathroom mirror
or had a shower today

when it was over
I didn't want to put
my clothes back on
none of us did
I guess my penis
is still a problem

I'd be the first to say
it really shouldn't be
I mean it's not actually

all that big of a big deal


I resisted the idea of including some of the many great photographs taken on Sunday in this blog, but I know you won'y be satisfied until you get at least one so, fine:

Hi Mum. Anyway, for a more pictorially-integrated account of the WNBR, check out 'Skinned' my poem on last year's ride HERE