The Prose Poems of Steve Kilbey

Introduction by Julianna

Listed below are the haunting words of Steve Kilbey. Many are familiar with his lyrics and music, but now, we are given intro to the intricate meanderings of his thoughts in prose. As the Church has always brought us soul-aching music then here we are witness to the darker side of humanity as only Kilbey can portray. There is a shallowness in every soul and a dark recess to every mind. In so few words and in so many words, Kilbey evokes powerful images of haunted and tormented agony, and of the utter irony of it all . To look upon ourselves and others and see the sadness and the joy which dwells in every breast. To feel the madness and to laugh at the hypocrisy of the world. That which we sense every day and ignore, Kilbey brings our world and the world of our subconcious to bearing in his stirring poetry.

November 20th, 1998
Steve's last five copies of Earthed were sold a few years ago, each was individually numbered and had a poem from Steve inside. Valerie has sent a scan of hers. It says...

"Donnette and I were 
in New York recording Hex
and I was writing Silvermine
in the apartment straight 
out of 1953, I swear, and when
I looked in the mirror I saw
in the distance mauve hills pushing
throug impossible clouds ....  I know
what youre thinking.
How the rain felt its way out of
the darkened sky and fell like
living creatures dropping into the 
streaming streets.
Maybe the only reason we
remember anything at all
is because time is all we own
Belonging.  Clinging."
This is on the next page:
"NO 4.



18th December 1997
Paul Hullah has written and published an excellent essay on Steve Kilbey's lyrics. It reveals aspects of the lyrics that I hadn't considered - there's still a surprise or two for everyone tucked away in Kilbey's words.

26th April 1997
Craig Wood has transcribed and sent in two pieces Steve wrote. One is on this page, while Erskine has its own page.

Jan 30th 1997
Would you like to listen to the start of a poem Steve contributed to the Brett Whiteley tribute album ? You'll need to Real Audio 3.0 player.

If you enjoy reading these works, Steve has released a book called Earthed which you may have to hunt around for. It was included with the Rykodisc release of the instrumental album of the same name, and was also available as a stand-alone book.

Magnetic Heaven - Originally published in North South East West fanzine Issue 3.
Unnamed 1 - From 1990 fan club newsletters
Unnamed 2 - From Issue 1 of NSEW.
Miracle Fallout
Unnamed 2
The Singer and His Voice - Originally printed in Nocturnal Submissions magazine #2
Attached - Received in e-mail from Steve !

We also keep prose poems by anyone who wishes to contribute. Like to read some ? Or you could click here for a trip to Yahoo's Poetry section.

Magnetic Heaven

the thirteenth flaw
and other

The track which leads to the mad family's house is now overgrown with fire nettles and rough thistles and stocky trees which have conspired to hide the entrance. Several miles back from the road lies the tumble down cottage, once painted lilac. Inside is the mother , with her draws full of dead mice . And its oh so carefully she collects their little corpses and arranges them accordingly to colour and size , sorting them neatly into the various compartments there the silverware once lay. (Now the family eat with their fingers ) . The mother is a crazy beauty dressed in spiderwebs and soot. Her faded tresses float about as she dances over the pitted floor listening to the music of the buzzing wasps and the rasping weeds which scratch against the windows in the wind. Tonight their meal will again be wild strawberries and dandelion brandy, or maybe a kantrella of mushroom or two. Poor Papa stands in the garden talking to the clouds, who cluster overhead with scanty promises of dampness. The islands of faces he sees in the cirrus, sometimes they answer back in soft vapourous voices, whispering stories of far off india of a blue hindu god and of monsoons.

Krsna is in your heart they whisper , but he looks in his heart and finds no such fabulous creature.

Sadly, the children have all died but their little ghosts are all around.She sometimes sees tham as she pulls up the flowers and then tends their graves with wild weeds. And why she can never entice them back inside the house for some tea. She stretched outr her hands towards their pale faces but withdraws her fingers with a feeling like frostbite. The long summer days have dazzled her memory and all the names have been lost in the clammy nights. When she remembers , she leaves out a plate of food at night for them which a grateful mangey fox licks clean. In the morning she is satisfied her little ones have something in their stomachs before they go to sleep.

All around nature is oppressive . conjuring thorns, ants, spikes, hornets, and flies from nothing and hemming it all in with sores, scabs and bites. Under the house a two headed adder has been born and the birdlings in the nest are blind and wingless.

In the mad familys house, where logic hase ceased to hold sway, where time runs backwards and forwards and sometimes stops, panting . Where parallel lines converge and feathes fall like lead. Where light travels slowly, fighting its way through the impenetrable murk. Where life goes on frictionless , unimpeded by the four dimensions where flies hunt spiders, dragging them mercylessly from their webs. Where memories leave imprints in the dust and dreams crash into the windows, trying to find a way out, here is the mother, absorbed in her own reflection, who she believes to be someone else. By chance , she catches sight of herself in a piece of broken mirror and thinks she has a spirit trapped in there. Holding it this way and that , trying to shake whatevers in there out., she cuts her fingers and licks greedily at the blood. On the table are spread her playthings, a thimble , small brittle squirrel bones and dead flowers. She talks to her things , telling them stories dredged up fromdeep in her mind. She remembers her little ones and goes out calling softly for them, but the rays of the sun burn too hot for any apparitions to be about.

Presently she takes a wander though the fields in her mind . Blessed red flowers rain down gently as though she had recently attained enlightenment. Perhaps this is some kind of idiot buddha, after all. The leaves give off a smell of sadness as they fall and the buds burst like fireworks in lazy arcs of colour. She remembers grey clouds rushing through a pink sunset like runaway herds of horses snorting steam. The petals and red ladybeetles and some miniscule birds and in her appears the taste of nature. This wind pushes her dress against her skin, gently tugging at the crests and crescents sets her down again. All around sighing voices welcome her to these gardens of madness, voices of dead queens and castrated slaves who sing in the languages of love.

Then across the fields walks the figure of a man, a thin pale man urged forward by the same capricious zephyrs that dominate this place. But who is this stranger here, here in her gardens , and he comes drifting up, urged along by the wind.

Jesus....he introduces himself. The mad woman does not reply but retreats a little crushing delicate sented flowers underfoot. My name is Jesus, he explains , patiently offering the a hand so white, that all the blood might have been drained from it. eliciting no reply he runs through his introducion in several different languages , but still she stares and steps slowly backwards.

You shouldnt be scared of me, he smiles.

But she is scared even more. The wind turns cold and the clouds become black as the sky. She turns and runs through the tossing heads of the plants which emit soft vegetal hisses as she passes along.

The man called Jesus watches her go with an expression of dissappointment. Soon she is lost among the trees and out of sight. Jesus puts his hands in his pockets and goes back the way he came. He laughs into the wind and it takes it and magnifies and melds it into its own mad howl.

Jagged crystals scattered on a reverbed Larks voices superimposed against industry and sobbing. The smell of long gone time within a small empty vase. A telephone call from my dead father. Veins of marble exposed in the sky, ominous droplets. Kitten with eyes like a sage in a cage in a lab. Morning breaks over slumlords boiled egg. Xrayed briefcase containing blurry blueprints of regret. Big man who rides rough shod on every reasonable human hope. Dreary click, click, click of expired singer. Message scratched into thin air by the hags freshly painted claw. Silly bastard locked into routine with dialogue. Over the back of the church on a windy day. November still looms like the maw of a diseased shark. Glass at the bottom of the donkeys dream.

A visit to a world just like ours.

Cliched business jerk crush mechanism as usual. Hatred smoulders while waiting, waiting waiting. Funny how you never realise. Blind day under the sheets with my baby, Amnesia. The box contained the beating heart of a cherub in foil. The train has been delayed and reverbed and panned. Wind chimes tinkling in sultry afternoon reverie, sydney. Propensity for revenge never satisfied. Crippled man with Harley Davidson tattooed on his knuckles. This next song was written by JIM GREED and Total Avarice. Gold flakes away revealing freckled flesh and rusty chords. You know who you are and you know how I will get you. Thanks again for ruining everything.

Deep below the surface of the planet the trapped wind howls and moans in crevices of sandstone and lime. Nether regions of darkness and silence. The grinding plates which shift and change, sending slow vibrations up to the surface, the world of air and light.

Birdsong and salty waves where the deep ocean joins the land, music taken for granted in the overworld, the rustle of leaves, the gurgle of the swamp.

Here we spend our indolent days playing in the shallows, fashioning crude clothes from nature, eating fire and drinking the milk of the clouds. This, then, is peacefulness at last, blue days, blue nights, the caresses of weather and the tranquility that comes after life. Impression of time.

S.K. 88


Jesus walks on the surface of the water like an insect, looking through the clear sea down to the waving weeds, where schools of fish come and go. Looking up to the surface they are amazed to see only the souls of his feet leave brief ripples on the tension skin of their liquid ceiling. Above him the middle eastern burning heavens where the spirits of the just merge with clouds, changing from morning into afternoon, changing from cool dusk into glassy night.

Down at the shore, the warm sand dips below the water and away, children sit and muse upon the empty sky and deep sea. They eat their unleavened loaves and talk softly of the cities and deserts, they discuss the flight of the heron and the chambers of Solomon.

Strange omens gather. A fish has been caught with three eyes and a belly full of gold. Rain falls out of a weatherless void and tastes of sweat. People have been breaking into foreign speech, unintelligible and uncontrollable. An eagle hatches from a chickens egg. The children dip their brown feet in the warm water and connect into something. They become charged, they see visions, they hear voices. The leopards on the mountain prick up their ears and purr. Whales, thousands of miles away, emerge from the deepest oceans and snort huge plumes of spray; Monkeys in Ethiopia swing down from their trees and chatter. The children have gone, have become absorbed. Their parents will weep and candles will sputter out in deserted rooms, where simple beds are unslept in and cold. No one will visit this town again. The sea will never reveal its secrets. The fallout from a miracle eventually dissipates and returns, floating slowly back up to the sky.

Me and Bill both got jobs working for the Summer Corporation. Aridity. We turned up at 2000 N. Fuller as advertised and we strolled through into the open grounds of the corporation's headquarters. Alone in the silent dry heat of the gardens, under the foreboding little mountains ahead, and the sound of the streets left far behind, we were, at last, in Hollywood. Out of the desperate past materialized here in dirt and tree ruined steps, ridiculous, overgrown, unattended. Yeah, when the talkies arrived seemed that Bill, here, hed been a big star, his own constellation in fact, but his voice was no good, he watched his career fade, his wives move on, out into history. He had been washed up. That's where the Summer Corporation comes in, but that, as they say is another story. Bill was playing the part of Mercutio or was it Jesse James...? A blockbuster for its time, an entity outside itself, behind the scenes a scorcher, what a cast...fifteen weeks and three disappearances later, Joel in the mirror just before the storm hit, that's not what I said...I mean Bill probably wasn't even there that day...what they said, a jealous husband at the Chronicle, who persecuted him with something that blew up in his own face, no, not Rita, but some other woman, it doesn't matter now, in the leafy desolate courtyard of the Summer Corporation. Keeping the outside away, that's our business.

The Singer And His Voice

There was once an incredibly handsome young man who was persecuted by the ambition to sing like a bird. His sheer beauty sustained him through adequate performances and he gradually attracted a devoted coterie of women who were enamoured by his vague grey eyes and the curve of his jaw. His voice was bland and devoid of resonance, although he could hit his notes without much trouble, but as for timbre or vibrato he had none, and worse still, he could invest no experience or weight behind the pallid interpretations he offered his audience that crowded into the tiny nightclub where he sang ( on Tuesday and Thursday nights). So they gazed at his lovely face and ignored his dull singing.

After each show people crowded into his meagre dressing room just wanting to look and be taken with his grace and gentle demeanour. Women flirted entranced while husbands sulked in the doorway. Bunches of exotic flowers arrived from strangers and the manager of the club smelt money.

None of this meant anything to the singer. Convinced of his own mediocrity, the praise and attention only served to mildly irk him. He felt talentless. He attended singing lessons in an apartment above the High Street where he and his teacher pointlessly went over the scales and exercise intended to improve breathing and pitch. But both secretly knew that these methods would never enhance his rather ordinary throat.

Finally, despite growing attendances and the adulation of several of the city's richest and most desirable women he packed a suitcase and slipped out of town unannounced. On a barge he drifted down a big brown river past fields of wheat and gently modulating hills where a weak winter sun struggled behind gathering clouds.

The owner of the barge, who preferred the company of man to women, was fascinated with his passenger and spent much time watching him and attempting to engage him in conversation. And once, late at night after several glasses of wine, the singer offered to sing for him, to pass the time. The barge-owner, imagining some rich baritone or sweet tenor emanating from his guest, agreed immediately and leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, but after two verses he fell asleep and soon was snoring loudly.

The next morning, still insulted, the singer disembarked at a small town on a bend in the river and walked the quiet streets looking for lodgings.

For a while he stayed in a spare room out the back of a bookshop, and - in return for his board - worked long dark rainy afternoons, serving the occasional customer and reading the books.

At first he skimmed through poetry, short stories, or the odd biography. Sometimes he would just browse through encyclopedias and atlases, beginning to acquire some new sense of the world and its inhabitants.

One day he found the old grammar of a 19th century magician called Erskine, the pages still crisp and legible, each illustrated with bizarre diagrams and symbols. He pondered much on a chapter which gave advice on how to summon up and capture one's own little devil, some minor demon who might be compelled to do one's bidding and that sort of thing. so he took the book to his room, and at midnight he picked it up and ("as if by magic" he thought rather naively) it fell open to the section to which he was particularly interested.

The page was stained yellow by moonlight.


It must be a full moon. inside a circle of black
chalk set a goblet of red whine to which has been
added a lizard's tear and the sweat of a hanged man,
also the powdered root of a hawthorn. Frankincense
should be burned. Half the mixture should be drunk
and the other half sprinkled liberally around the
room. A pinch of turmeric and the crushed skull of
a still-born goat should be thrown on the flame.
chant the demon's name starting in a whisper and
progressing to a scream. Continue for 3 hours and
then cut the throats of the two black rats spilling
the blood inside the circle. This should be sufficient.

As the morning star was rising, sure enough, in an armchair in the window a figure began to fade up into existence: a small, dark, wrinkled man sitting quite naked watching him. Eventually he broke the silence. "Ah, it's a better voice you'll be wanting now, is it?" The voice was velvet. It carried a strange foreign accent.

The singer blanched.
"Er...I was hoping..."
"Hoping, now, was you?" The demon sniffed the pungent stale air of the room and motioned to the mess on the floor.
"That's a funny sort of hope indeed, I'd say now"
The singer shuddered.
"Yes...well I hadn't really ex...", his voice trailed off in disbelief.
"Hadn't expected the spell to actually work now, hadn't you? Hell! I'd love a soul for every time I've heard that since the beginning, yes the sad and wonderful beginning when the gorgeous Lord Lucifer cast that bastard out of Hell and upwards into the infernal ether."
"Oh praise that vile and damned day", the demon went on. "And suck the corpses of the good and honest out of the dark earth and into the terrifying sky, where they roam in horror, castrated of their will and lovely evil." The demon glared at him with angry little eyes and licked its black lips. The singer shuddered again; he backed away slowly towards the door.
"Ssss...thought it was the other way round now, didn't you? Yes indeed, you did now, didn't you?" his eyes grew even nastier.
"You've disturbed me in the middle of some very delicious and pleasurable business, and, fuck a dead angel boy, I'm going to peel the skin off your flesh and lick you with my pretty, black tongue." Astaroth giggled a soft girlish giggle and uncrossed and recrossed his hairy legs.

The singer suddenly bolted for the door, but it was fast and firmly jammed.

"Leaving so soon now, are you?" the demon crooned, and stretched out his wicked hands, and as if by a magnet, drew the singer towards him and then brought him to his knees without touching him, inches away from his face.

"It's alright. I'm not really going to hurt you." The demons breath stank. He stifled the reflex to vomit.
"I'll teach you how to have a beautiful voice, you little stupid. Though there's no magic in it now, is there? Yes a beautiful voice like mine, indeed like my very own."
The singer had to admit to himself that the demon did actually have a wonderful and musical voice. And then in the form of a song with the most strange and exquisite melody, Astaroth began. The words were ancient, unfamiliar, yet the singer understood them perfectly.

"First you must smoke. You must smoke tobacco, moss, hashish, opium, the bones of women, anything, but you must smoke. This will give you Resonance."

"Then you must fuck. You must fuck night and day, and imbibe all the salty and rancid liquids, and absorb the pus from pimples, blisters and chancres, and breathe the steam given off by bodies. And this will give you Pitch."

"And then you must drink. You must drink beer and whisky and absinthe and piss and blood and sea-water and the curdled milk of foxes. you must drink from filthy puddles and from ostentatious cups. you must drink turpentine and oil and the stuff that oozes from the stem of a dead lilly. and this will give you Depth."

"And then you must kill. You must kill children and enemies and beetles and deer. You must kill whales and ant-colonies and lovers and herd of horses. You must kill cities and rivers and queen bees. And this will give you Timbre."

"And then you must eat. You must eat bread and iron and jellies and birdshit and holy wafers and rye which is diseased with ergot. And you must eat pig and dove and pineapples and the eyes of sharks and offal and the feet of dogs and the breasts of monkeys. You must eat lion's balls and the flowers that grow around graves. This will give you Range."

"And then you must scream and you must gurgle and you must cough until your throat bleeds raw. And you must choke and you must spit and you must shout the most disgusting curses until you're hoarse and sore. And you must shriek and simper and grunt like a swine. And this will give you Control."

"And then you must suffer. You must suffer pain and much more pain and loathing and ulcers and grief, heartbreaking grief, and tumours and wounds and scalds and burns and warts and cuts and bruises and festering sores that never heal, and blows about the head and insulting remarks from the mob. And this will give you confidence."

The demon finished his song abruptly and sat back in the chair snorting out little puffs of smoke from his nostrils. And then he laughed and vanished.

The singer went forth into the world, and practised all his lessons faithfully and to the letter. And after many many years he possessed a voice of silver; a haunting, warm, soft, deep voice that hung suspended in the air and lingered in the corners of rooms and wafted and sighed and floated like a dream.

He eventually booked himself a show at the old nightclub and most of the old crowd turned up to see the return of their prodigal singer. And he came on stage and the deep melancholy voice, husky and soothing drifted around the room as if an enchantment was in the smoky air.

But no one heard anything at all of this splendid and magical singing. His former sycophants groaned in horror at the bloated repugnant wreck he had become, and they angrily demanded their money back.

Hounded out of the town by indignant city officials who were outraged by his wretched appearance, he ended up in a ditch three miles thence, and he lay in the warm night, still singing. And the beasties of the fields and forests crept out from their lairs and hiding places gathered to bask in this voice most wondrous, and would do him no harm. But alas, one day he was fatally mauled by a deaf bear.


* By the shoulders, we are joined, where we might have had wings.

* As one marble block separated, as the stone screamed in agony, perfectly alike one curving in as the other curved out. As two mirrors reflecting themselves, two halves of the one.

They see things in an empty room, things that make them cry. Wicked things, I expect, only showing themselves to those two little halves, those two little loves.

Suddenly they will see it both, fixing four bewildered eyes on nothing that is visible. and they wail in grief most lonely and claw softly at each other. Nothing can be said for consolation. Then whatever it was is gone and the sadness ceases. One says it was little Kasper Speke who died of the flu and the hospital burned his last drawings for fear of contamination. Two says it was just the wind.

That's all.

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