William Stephenson OH competition

William Stephenson

Open House Competition 2019: Second Place

the Sudafed Brothers

Three denim-shirted chemists step up to the microphones
and spark exothermic harmony. Uvulas quiver, each pink
as a drop of manganese solution on the teat of a pipette.
Wayne, Brad and Taylor own larynxes immaculate
as tubes where indoles crystallize in glassy needles
on the campus of a pharmaceutical giant in California;

yet their guitars cough out a two-stroke backbeat,
a pickup juddering into mesquite-studded badlands
to stop beside a trailer that stinks of scorched plastic,
coyote piss and sulphur. Minor key bridges
span canyons of nouns unuttered but implied
beneath those sung: capsule, syrette, powder, pain.

And you, with your molars like sugar cubes
and your meth vat heart, could be their sibling.
Reagents foam beneath your glassware skin.
The mosh pit buzzes, live connections in rain.
Jabbing for room, your arms begin to spasm.
Your mouth’s a crucible. Brother, you are singing.

William Stephenson’s first full collection Travellers and Avatars was published by Live Canon in 2018 and is available from the publishers or via Amazon. His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013), downloadable via the University of Chester Open Repository.