Paul A Green
The Terminal Poet

1. Urban interior, cramped. Traffic. Distant MIX of party/hip hop noise. Electrical hum. DWORKIN is far side, RUNEBERG is close.

DWORKIN: He's drinking again. . . in bed. . .

RUNEBERG: Absinthe? Bourbon? Beaujolais?

DWORKIN: Some kinda dark fluid.

RUNEBERG : Hey, Dworkin, you should know. . .

DWORKIN: Your camera's gone monochrome.

RUNEBERG: You should know the case history.

(SFX: Scrape of chairs as RUNEBERG elbows DWORKIN aside.)

DWORKIN: I'm usually assigned to people of. . . moral gravity. . .

RUNEBERG: Yeah, well. . . he's a heavy arsehole. . .

DWORKIN: Mister Runeberg, crudity is inappropriate.

RUNEBERG: He's a Brit arsehole then.

DWORKIN: As Foundation employees we should observe high standards. . .

RUNEBERG: Then watch the goddamned screen.

2. Slow cross-fade. Interior. CHARLES sitting in his small boxy room talking intimately to his computer. He slurs his words. Through the window, walls, floor — the throb of THE MIX under:

CHARLES: Open a bottle. . . (clink of glass) Open a file. Just call it the Terminal Poet. My grand finale. The whole grand canon of Parnassian poesis — which terminates. In bloody minded me. Blank screen. Droopy microphone.

(SFX: Click and whir of hard drive.)

The ghost machine struggles. To recognise my aureate diction. I dictate. . .

I am that I am. . . that I was. Charles Fraser Kenning MA Oxon, author of "Polishing the Word Hoard, Selected Poems 1959-2001". This is perhaps my last uttering.

(MIX peaks and dips. Hip hop riffs, noisy rap under:)

Why do you inner city dwellers need such vast public address systems? — Permeates my entrails. A nocturnal pollution.

I am the end of the line. Last will and testicle. End of joke.

"You're past your sell-by date, " said one of the junior editors. "Cheaper to pulp you, really." Hope a dead tree falls on her head!

(MIX peaks and dips. Shouts, PARTY mayhem under:)

I wish someone would drop a precision, a precision — what's the word? — munition on certain apartments in this block. Bloody rabble babel!

(More PARTY mayhem under:)

Shut up, I'm having a piss up. With my speech recognition software. . . we're trying to write my postscript.

3. MIX peaks and dips. Close: clink of glass and bottle as CHARLES imbibes, CROSS FADE to:

DWORKIN: He's not delivering relevant data.

RUNEBERG: So you know what the Helicon Foundation needs?

DWORKIN: No self-respect. No standards.

RUNEBERG: Man needs to piss, OK?

DWORKIN: In the sink? He's a degenerate!

RUNEBERG: You haven't read the latest report. . .

DWORKIN: I'm still waiting for clearance.

RUNEBERG: He could have unique skills.

DWORKIN: He can hardly belt up his pants.

RUNEBERG: Could have bi-cameral resonance skills.

DWORKIN: My folks would call him a bum.

RUNEBERG: His neural interface fits.

DWORKIN: He's a God-forsaken wreck.

RUNEBERG: I'm directing this operation, Dworkin. Pump up the volume.

4. CHARLES is now heard filtered through monitors. So is the MIX.

(DWORKIN and RUNEBERG are close.)

CHARLES: (fading in) I had all the right genes for faking it as a poetry manufacturer. I was forged. Forged by my parents in the shadow of the Fuehrer. With doodlebugs gliding down the summer sky.

DWORKIN: All this noise in the signal. . .

RUNEBERG: Sometimes noise is kinda interesting

CHARLES: I learned deep grammar. Colours of rhetoric.

DWORKIN: Why can't we terminate surveillance?

RUNEBERG: He might reach a critical phase.

CHARLES: I was cloistered by the scribes, fell off the high tables of the law, smouldered in the fleshpots, shambled about like a sad animal, a sham shaman. . .

DWORKIN: His words just stick in my throat.

RUNEBERG: He's burning out those speech centres.

(MIX peaks higher.)

CHARLES: There's plaque in my neurones. Blobs of din soldering up the circuitry. It's inside and outside.

(MIX peaks higher, obscuring CHARLES for a second or two and dips.)

DWORKIN: Such a low-life housing facility.

RUNEBERG: Poet in slow-motion tower-block hell. . . yeah. . .

CHARLES: I am a pallid clerical Caucasian but I have attitude with my platitude, I am the endgame. The last word order. World order.

DWORKIN: He's talking garbage. It's not right. . .

RUNEBERG: He's talking deep shit, man. Listen. . .

CHARLES: Poetry commands. Prose merely invites.

(MIX peaks higher again and dips.)

RUNEBERG: Hear that, Dworkin? Poetry commands!

CHARLES: I commanded fees for a while what with my short term fellowships. And then a nice little circuit of festivals and readings and guesting with the late Rupert Easterbrook. Arts Talkabout BBC Radio 4, 7.30 pm.

DWORKIN: That's all he is. Talk.

CHARLES: Poor Rupert. Electrocuted. Hosting a literary prize giving. Live. On the television. The end.

RUNEBERG: Careful. . . he might have hidden pain-killers.

CHARLES: I have memory traces of a high Jacobean room. . . Some flower power poet screaming his napalm throatburn — holy smoking barbarians skunking in the tabernacles. . . skulking. . . sulking. . . I'm running out of present participles. . .

RUNEBERG: Running out of booze, old man. . .

CHARLES: You see, I couldn't perform like your poets today. Dogs on their hind legs. Wagging their desperate boney dicks.

DWORKIN: Mister Runeberg, this subject must be a degenerate.

RUNEBERG: Shut up, Dworkin. I'm listening. . .

CHARLES: For I was a pagemaker. I had all the fonts. Bookman Old Style, Times New Roman, Baskerville Old Face, dirty old Eric Gill. . . bindings. . . leather. . . Can't decode all that street graffiti, runic tags across every wet surface like floaters on the eyeball. I am the wrinkly face of poetry. Time for a Socratic nightcap.

RUNEBERG: Watch him. . . watch out for tablets. . .

CHARLES: Writing for people who can't read, that's the literacy challenge now. The hocus focus fuckus groups don't like my stuffing. My final faffing.

(SFX: Fumbling with screw top bottle.)

RUNEBERG: Oh my god. . . he's got tablets!

DWORKIN: I can't zoom in. . .

(SFX: bustle around the equipment.)

RUNEBERG: Stop blocking me. . . gimme the control!

CHARLES: I have an audience of one.

RUNEBERG: We gotcha in close-up, Charlie.

CHARLES: My speech recognition system barely recognises me.

RUNEBERG: Can't read the damn label —

CHARLES: My persiflage dies with me.

RUNEBERG: We got to make contact now.

DWORKIN: The brief only said surveillance.

RUNEBERG: I think on my feet, Dworkin. . .

5. Quick cross-fade into: Office Interior. Distant phones.

HELEN: What does this Runeberg think he's doing?

ROGER: It's a crisis, Helen.

HELEN: My department was never consulted.

ROGER: The Americans insist Kenning was the right match. It's a very new technology.

HELEN: As Culture Secretary surely my input on the selection —

ROGER: It's Kenning's output that matters now.

HELEN: Listen Roger — Charles Kenning used to write bad erotic sonnets on restaurant table-cloths. To avoid paying the bill. It never worked. . .

ROGER: You're remarkably well informed, Helen. . . (moving off) Now let's go. . .

6. Cross fade to NEWSREADER over Radio 1 style music bed, heard over car radio and car interior sounds.

NEWSREADER:. . . It's now understood that twenty three people died in last night's disturbances in north London, involving a clash between supporters of the Quantum Slut Krew and the Dump Cracker Boyz. A wide area of North Kensington has been zoned off by Urban Special Forces, who are still carrying out operations in the area.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that despite the grave nature of these events, there was no justification yet for declaring a state of national emergency. He was being fully briefed by the new Home Secretary Roger Sullington —

(SFX: Radio switched off. Car gathers speed. Distant sound of emergency vehicles at intervals.)

RUNEBERG: Bet you were glad to see us, eh, Charlie?

CHARLES: Where exactly are we going?

DWORKIN: You oughta be grateful. You've been saved.

RUNEBERG: We're here to empower you.

CHARLES: Stop the bloody car. Now.

RUNEBERG: OK. . . Dworkin, you can pull over. . . we could drop old Charles right here. . . in the underpass. . .

(SFX: Car slows. Sirens echoing.)

DWORKIN: But this is Dump Cracker County. . .

RUNEBERG: Yeah. . . a mile from the nearest checkpoint. . . think we better drive on. . . don't you, Charles?

(SFX: car accelerates again.)

CHARLES: I have connections. On high tables. You've got the wrong man. . .

DWORKIN: We've been monitoring your life style for a considerable time period. And I really have to say, Mr Kenning —

RUNEBERG: Dworkin here has been inspired by the down-home hot-dog stickability you have demonstrated in actualising your career mission.

DWORKIN: The Lord knows you've hit bottom, Charles Kenning.

RUNEBERG: And not a cute bottom in sight, Charles, eh?

CHARLES: No right to disrupt me. Where are we going?

DWORKIN: God knows we're here to help. . .

(SFX: car gathers more speed.)

RUNEBERG: You know, Charles, we've enjoyed a special relationship with you.

DWORKIN: And with your country, don't forget.

RUNEBERG: Centuries of culture, embodied in its poets. Like you.

CHARLES: Only done my duty. To the English language.

RUNEBERG: Now the President is very concerned, Charles. About a matter of state. The state of poetry.

CHARLES: Poetry?

DWORKIN: There's a President of Poetry?

RUNEBERG: Of course, it's been a concern of every Presidency since the sixties.

DWORKIN: You mean — beatniks howling through the campuses, trying to hex the Pentagon with their orgies. . .

RUNEBERG: Made trouble for reputable poets like Charles.

CHARLES: Fouled up the language.

DWORKIN: Then I guess in the seventies, when we had the Marxists and the women and the blacks. . .

RUNEBERG: Right on. All the humanity screaming around the planet, stirring shit.

CHARLES: Tried to seize the media studios.

RUNEBERG: We followed you following the action in the English departments.

CHARLES: They call them Cultural Studies, these days. All verbal burble. Surface gloss. Polysemic perverts.

RUNEBERG: But now there's a new threat, Charles. . . can't you feel it?

7. Cross-fade into MIX: QUANTUM SLUT over heavy rap beats on PA and crowd chants of "QUANTUM SLUT!"


I'm the mystery hysterical particle
I'm everything, the definitive article

I spit out the light I slit up time
I signify zero I got the first signs

My skywriting is a polygraph
I'm dying as I'm lying dying for a larf

I got your world-soul out of control
I'm the mother of all brothers, the ho of the hole

I'm the mystery hysterical particle
I'm everything, the definitive article

I spit out the light I slit up time
I signify zero I got the first signs

My skywriting is a polygraph
I'm dying as I'm lying lying for a larf

I got your world-soul out of control
I'm the mother of all brothers, the ho of the hole

(SFX: Huge stadium roar. Fade into:)

8. Cavernous interior. Footsteps echoing. Distant communications/security chat and hum. Clank of keys, locks, heavy steel doors.

HELEN: But I thought this whole base had been closed. Years ago.

ROGER: Built for national emergencies, Helen. To cope with ten megatons. And subsequent civil disorder.

HELEN: But this isn't. . .

ROGER: It's a different kind of radiation. A. . . morphic resonance wave. According to Runeberg. . .

HELEN: You don't understand it, do you?

ROGER: This hip hop woman could be generating random morphic resonance waves. Affecting the interplay of language centres. In brains overloaded with electronic data — and cocaine. . .

HELEN: You're struggling, Roger. Admit it.

ROGER: The phenomenon. . . re-routes the tunnelling of quantum particles throughout the synapses of the right hemisphere of the cortex which transmits a clone of itself as a superstring, like a viral drug. . . which then violently affects others in the immediate vicinity. . .

HELEN: You're just making it all up as you go along. Got any more jargon to scare me with?

ROGER: Yes, Helen. Apparently this resonance effect is most likely to present in the early stages of a very rare hereditary tendency to frontal glioma.

HELEN: Please speak English.

ROGER: Your poet's got a brain tumour.

(Cross-fade to:)

9. Interior monologue close, reverb over sixties trance-like music:

HELEN: After our private tutorial in your rooms, I used to watch you writing. Watch your pen pulsing along the lines. See the text spurting across the page.

(SFX: fade music, cut reverb, normal interior acoustic.)

HELEN: I want to stay.

CHARLES: I write alone, Helen!

HELEN: I'll be totally silent. Just pad around in the gloom. Pour your wine.

CHARLES: No distractions please, Helen. Poetic art demands a deadline.

HELEN: (close, reverb) He made love to language. The curvature of letters, the smooth surface of words in the half-light, his vanishing points of punctuation. . . . . . everything surging to get through the tiny hole of a word. . .

10. Cross fade into ambient stylised laboratory soundscape. Throughout the scene CHARLES is close, the others are more remote.

CHARLES: (very close, breathing heavily) Let go of the mucus of me. I is the wrong sentence. My brain zone is melting me down. Assemblies of bone make up their hutch against the solar wind. I only wanted a typewriter under my pointed nose. Now we is lost in space.

DWORKIN: You never told me it was going to be like this, Mr Runeberg. . .

RUNEBERG: It's no worse than running a magnetic resonance brain scan. Except we're kinda tweaking the reverb, so to speak. Boosting his signal.

HELEN: Charles? Charles? Are you listening? Can you hear me?

RUNEBERG: Don't worry, Mam. He's just having a little trance trip. We gave him fifty mil of Neurothane-ZX to take the edge off things.

DWORKIN: The Lord gave him an immortal soul.

RUNEBERG: You know, Dworkin, you should have done a little acid when you were in Bible College. It might make you less dogmatic about the nature of the soul. You ought to lighten up.

CHARLES: (choking,) The West is over-cooked. In the fields of grit, the browner people eat shit, boss cats get top guts, at the end of an end it's time to turn the fuck off!

DWORKIN: That's a Satanic mind injection. . .

RUNEBERG: We can't stop now. He'll stabilise soon.

CHARLES: No don't go. I've got to chase that fade.

RUNEBERG: You see you can't stop his neural decay. . .

CHARLES: No terminal beach party please. I'm a live archive of jive. The rhythm is driving me mad as a darling, darling.

HELEN: This is horrible. . . he's just a laboratory animal.

RUNEBERG: Animal crackers in the alphabet soup. That's all we are.

HELEN: Mr Runeberg, if we had known what this intervention was really going to cost in human terms, The Prime Minister would have never —

RUNEBERG: The Quantum Slut resonance effect could cost us everything. Globally, in the long run.

HELEN: So we have new problem sub cultures evolving. . . but —

RUNEBERG: We're not talking about a few gangstas low-riding the 'hood shooting off their big mouths with loops of dirty rhymes that kids in Tuscaloosa are going to sing on the school bus, that's the kind of stuff Dworkin worries about. No — we're gonna be talking in post-human terms. . . the high frontier. . .

(SFX: A dim cavernous murmuring in the ether. . .)

HELEN: You can mystify Roger Sullington, but don't try and fool me. . .

RUNEBERG: We're talking the future of consciousness here.

11. Cross-fade into MIX with traffic noise: DUMP CRACKER over rap beats on open air PA and street corner crowd chants of "DUMP CRACKER!"


Quantum Slut you ain't nothing but noise
waving your butt brain to fool the boys
You trying to make out with a sixth sense?
I ain't seen no new-wave evidence
Cos you don't make any difference
You try coming on with your verbology
Cos you can't keep up with the new technology
I'm the Bit-Man, I'm firewired for speed
your slo-mo po-face ain't what we need
I'm the Dump-Cracker. I hack into the trashed towers
I salvage the dead gigabytes, tax their secret powers
track the information across the nation
I got the word of command, don't need no invitation

(SFX: Shouts and cheers. Beat continues looping under repeated shouts of:)

VOICES (male): Giss the word/crack up the word/word up/word up/big it up big it up/respect/yo DUMP DUMP/Giss the word/word is the word/rap it up/rap it up/giss the word/crack up the word/word up/word up/big it up big it up/respect/yo DUMP DUMP/Giss the word/word is the word/rap it up/rap it up/giss the word/giss the word/crack up the word/word up/word up/big it up big it up/respect/yo DUMP DUMP/Giss the word/word is the word/rap it up/rap it up/giss the word. . .

(SFX: Long fade.)

12. Brooding music bridge into base control centre ambience. Background intercom chatter. ROGER & RUNEBERG are close.

ROGER: We've had an epidemic of irrational mob violence across the country, wherever these "rap" groups stage their confrontations. Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol — and now Cambridge.

RUNEBERG: Sure. We're getting our own little problems in LA. But don't you worry Mr Secretary. The Slut and the Cracker don't know how their brains generate this stuff. But we do now, thanks to your fine Mr Kenning.

13. Echoing underground corridors of the base.

HELEN: Have you worked with Jack Runeberg before?

DWORKIN: It's the first time.

HELEN: You're not happy, are you, Dean?

DWORKIN: He's. . . obscene.

HELEN: What's he going to do next?

DWORKIN: Do you believe in God, Miss Slater? In the authority of His divine Word?

HELEN: I wish I had your confidence, Dean. Perhaps you can share it with me.

DWORKIN: The Word of God spoke through Moses, through the prophets and psalms. It spoke in mighty verses and rhythms. It commanded in metaphors. They heard it and wrote it and kept it.

HELEN: So what is Runeberg going to do with Charles Kenning?

DWORKIN: Commit a terrible blasphemy. . . tongues burning like acid. . .


14. Interior. Hospital ambience.

CHARLES: "We know now that poetry must lead somewhere. . ." Andre Breton 1929. All that old surrealist pajama party. . . (woozy, sings, vaudeville blues Bessy Smith style) "I'm a rancid boy, don't deny my name." Ah. The man in the dark suit.

RUNEBERG: Feeling better, old boy?

CHARLES: That magnetronic helmet gadget has really helped.

RUNEBERG: Can you remember anything, Charles?

CHARLES: All black. Reverberating.

RUNEBERG: But no more head aches, huh?

CHARLES: What were those tablets?

RUNEBERG: New drugs. . . very good drugs. . .

CHARLES: Yes. . . My head's full of new ideas

RUNEBERG: You're going to write'em good, Charlie boy, write'em up good. You're going to write your way into the people's heads, ride their brain rhythms, break into their breakthrough, burst open their word hoard.

CHARLES: Well. . . yes. . . How exactly?

RUNEBERG: Of course we'll have to re-launch you, re-brand you. For the kids on the street. . .

CHARLES: You expect me to wreck whatever's left of my expensive mind. . .

RUNEBERG: Maybe we can make the age factor a little soundbite in itself.

CHARLES: Old fart blows a new riff?

RUNEBERG: We'd get you a new book out.

CHARLES: A whole new book?

RUNEBERG: A real hard shiny book. We could have people working on the jacket right now.

CHARLES: You're making it all up.

RUNEBERG: How about a CD? And a DVD? And a website? And festival spots, a chair on a TV chat show, and coast-to-coast readings. Big auditoriums.

CHARLES: Lots of public appearances. . . I don't know.

RUNEBERG: And of course money. All the way from Fat City.

CHARLES: Money — for a Terminal Poet?

RUNEBERG: A nice bursary, a part-time Creative Writing lectureship somewhere.

CHARLES: I need personal assistance.

RUNEBERG: Cute young marketing ladies, yeah?

CHARLES: Posh crumpet for the Terminal Poet. . . yes. . . yes. . .

RUNEBERG: Be a yay-sayer. Escape from the dark towers.

(SFX: Fade. Long pause.)

15. Internal monologue.

CHARLES (close): Never too certain about live readings. Didn't like those squealing microphones. Audiences more interested in how I tugged my cravat, the way I concealed a fart, anything but the bloody poems.

Poor little things, the poems, lying there on the page. Like pieces of chewed up bark. But now. . .

16. Bookshop.

(SFX: burst of applause, female whoops and whistles, quick segue into surreal world music beats and party atmos of literati chattering over:)

PR PERSON: And now Charles will sign copies of "Flaming Out The Word Hoard" at only 15.99.

FEMALE VOICE MONTAGE: Please Charles/Just for me/No, me first/Such an exciting reading/I was here first, Chloe/Write anything you like/Just there, that's nice/Lavinia, you bitch, he's mine/Write all over it, I don't care/Go on/That's great/Fantastic/Lovely/So clever/I really loved it/How about me. . .

(SFX: Long fade.)

17. Car interior faded in. ROGER on radio:

ROGER: . . . before I answer that question, let me just remind your listeners that the bold initiatives that we're undertaking in partnership with our expert consultants from the Helicon Foundation — who have developed cutting-edge skills in cultural management issues — will demonstrate our commitment to stabilising the youth sector. This is not an epidemic of violence. Let's not have a media panic. Our inner-city cultural renewal programme. . . (switch off)

RUNEBERG: Gonna be a great gig tomorrow, Charles. Urban Wordfest at the Dome.

CHARLES: I'm the surprise guest?

RUNEBERG: Don't worry. Rest and recreation has been arranged.

18. Cross-fade into MIX: Large auditorium. QUANTUM SLUT over new rap beats on PA and crowd chants of "QUANTUM SLUT!"


mouth zip up-tight on a spliff
I'm extra fast-forwarding my red/green shift

into the hot head-time, bed-time, my pleasure dome
is a leisure centre, just take me home

I'm a girl who likes to get around
to barbie up every beach boy on the ground

Zero is me, mash up your mythology
Slash your inner rhythm, I got parapsychology

I got a black cat bone I gotta mojo too
I got God this morning, you can eat him too

I can learn you from cracking you up to break the code
jack up my soft circuit! I'm in the over-mode. . .

(SFX: Cheers, female screams — fade into:)

19. Hotel. Medium furnished interior. Low TV babble.

RUNEBERG: My god, my god. . . Beaujolais on the upholstery. Give a poet a four-star hotel and he trashes the joint.

HELEN: Can't you see he's sick?

RUNEBERG: Sure — he's covered in gastric juices. And all over the screen. This isn't what we tasked you to do. You're on in fifteen minutes.

HELEN: He was trying to write a new poem. A control like you wanted. To act as a live feed.

CHARLES: Where's my glamorous assistant? Helen. . .?

RUNEBERG: (close, hoarse) Hey babe did ya hear big tunes in the tunnel of love?

HELEN: Don't be idiotic.

RUNEBERG: Then don't do the quantum dance with us, sister.

HELEN: He's not good with the technology.

RUNEBERG: Well, forget the speech recognition. You better let him dictate. Like old times. . .

HELEN: But. . .

RUNEBERG: Tap-dance on that fucking keyboard. . .

(SFX: click of keys — fast, erratic under:)

CHARLES: (monotone)

Tom Cruise loses an eyeball.
Mickey is weeping today
Disneyland burns brightest
its dinosaurs bugger Madonna — exclusive!

RUNEBERG: What you trying to tell us, Fat Poet. . .?

CHARLES: (zombie)

The producers of X Men, Terminator
Burning like flies. . . B-burning like celluloid. Snap crackly weasel pop pop. Celebrity meltdown
The angels screaming
It's a Triple X Futurama. . .

RUNEBERG: Stop it. This is wormhole stuff. Just stop it right there.


Aisles streaming blood
in the Walmarts of Dallas
the preacher blazing
high on his neon cross

RUNEBERG: I said stop it, OK? STOP IT! STOP!

(SFX: slaps CHARLES who groans. RUNEBERG slaps him repeatedly until he lapses back into incoherent grunting and mumbling under:)

HELEN: He's on full automatic, he can't help it. He's just out of control.

RUNEBERG: We could be infected real bad. You rerun the text too often, it rewrites the directories of your brain. At the root. . .

CHARLES (murmur): Tooti Frooti Vout O Rooni!

HELEN: What's this infection?

RUNEBERG: We're taking care of it. It's being contained. We need to move on.

HELEN: Have we been exposed?

RUNEBERG: The — uh — verbal disorientation — that subjects like Charles display sometimes affects contactees in a negative fashion. They tend to imitate those zappy verbal inter-actions, experience deluded false-reality syndromes of one kind and another — it's a minor risk — sometimes there are visual stimuli, vision things, what we call scenarios, imagery of war, high trauma situations — and so forth.

HELEN: Contactees?

RUNEBERG: The more contact you have the more you're at risk. You're probably at minor risk. Minor to major.

HELEN: You bastards. You knew, you knew — and all those wretched kids out there. . .

RUNEBERG: Invasive procedures are a matter of chance and necessity!

(SFX: Door bursts open. DWORKIN is shouting from the doorway.)

DWORKIN: Nobody move. Don't even think!

RUNEBERG: Dworkin, what is this shit?

DWORKIN: Quiet. No more words. A merciful silence. That's what you need. To be saved. I have the technology. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Nor yet a warlock.

RUNEBERG: Hey now, Dworkin, easy man. . . put the gun away. . .

CHARLES (stirring): That's right. . . put it out. . . put her down, leave her alone. . .

DWORKIN: I have the technology of salvation.

RUNEBERG: We can't afford any more collaterals, you meatloaf!

DWORKIN: The flesh of their tongues shall blaspheme no more.

RUNEBERG: Gimme your sidearm. That's a direct order.

(SFX: Struggle between the three men. CHARLES grunting and panting.)

CHARLES: I shall be mock-heroic. . .

HELEN: You idiot. . .

RUNEBERG: Just get the fucker.

CHARLES: Give me that Yankee popgun!

HELEN: Charles, you don't know what you're doing!

(SFX: Triumphant shout from CHARLES. Machine pistol shots, repeated. Groan from RUNEBERG.)

HELEN: Stop the killing, Charles. Please. STOP!

(Fade to silence. Cross fade into:)

20. Exterior. Fade in echoing feet in concrete underpass. Traffic sounds, panting of CHARLES and HELEN who have been running hard. The MIX is very distant.

CHARLES: We know now poetry must bleed somewhere. . . and you can't stop the bleeding. . .

HELEN: Got to stop. . .

CHARLES: In the underpass. . . we join the underclass. . . how picaresque!

HELEN: Do you know what you've done?

CHARLES: I'm poetry in motion.

HELEN: You've murdered our key adviser.

CHARLES: You're saved. Aren't you? "She was only a totty in high heels but she was saved by high art!"

HELEN: Runeberg understood what was happening.

CHARLES: You whored for Roger Sullington.

HELEN: We're way beyond personalities, now Charles.

CHARLES: You whored for the whole Helicon Foundation.

HELEN: Just focus, Charles, focus. . .

CHARLES: Did the Foundation recognise my place in the Literary Canon? Among the Seminal Poets?

HELEN: You can't grip anything specific. You even dropped the gun.

CHARLES: I had the purity of my art.

HELEN: You and your little old soul wrapped up in tweeds. Piss artist.

CHARLES: So I'm a clerical error.

HELEN: Yeah. A doodle bug, random and stupid and zero. Something salvaged from a dead hard drive on a landfill site.

CHARLES: I scored a hit. At last. At least.

HELEN: You're a disease. A telepathology on varicose stilts. You're just an old sad mammal in shanty town, you're just —

(SFX: The street crew is getting nearer with BITMAN, HORMONE, DUMP CRACKER and PLUG circling CHARLES and HELEN on skateboards. Heavy urban mix.)

CHARLES: Here come the tribes. Hail to the tribes. . .

BITMAN: What you looking at?

CHARLES: Behold the metalwork on that scrotum.

HORMONE: You don't diss Bitman. . .

(Shouts of agreement.)

CHARLES: Blurry sigils on buttocks. Forked tongues of the youth. I've only come to filter the dialect of the tribe. I'm the bookend of world poetry.

(Shouts of derision.)

BITMAN: Hey, Hormone, the bitch is wearing Guccis. Brands u like.

HELEN: They want your passwords. Just move on. . .

CHARLES: All my stripes are wiped. I am the terminated poet. A joke box.

HORMONE: Kill him for his shitty rhymes.

HELEN: They're going to play youth games with us.

CHARLES: What do you want then, my eternal youths? Slaves to the rhythm, eh?

BITMAN: Got any wraps, any rocks? Any crack? Got some roonie?

(Voices overlapping fugally, fast stylised.)

HORMONE: Got any Black shit?

BITMAN: Any horse?

DUMP CRACKER: Seen Wicked Trevor?

PLUG: Giss a five-pound draw. . .

BITMAN: More sulphate?

HORMONE: Any of that dragon spunk?

DUMP CRACKER: Got any puff?

HORMONE: Got any neurals?

PLUG: She's gotta have her neurals.

DUMP CRACKER: Do you know the Endorphin Kid?

HORMONE: Any good enzymes?

BITMAN: Any more of that beak food?

HORMONE: Any any old shit?

CHARLES: I'm an alcoholic. A fucking venerable alcoholic. Now out of my way! Let me pass!

PLUG: Let's tax him.

CHARLES: I'm a killer, you know. I'm a fool for killing.

PLUG: Going to be so dead.

DUMP CRACKER: I'm gonna talk to this lady. Smile when you talk to me, lady. I'm a global commodity.

CHARLES: So your balls glow in the dark, I suppose. Glo-balls. English schoolboy joke.

PLUG: Go on, Dump Cracker.

CHARLES: No. . . just wait. . . wait. . . let her go. . .


CHARLES: I've got something you need.

BITMAN: And. . .?

CHARLES: It's coming. . . let go. . . just let me breathe. . . the fumes of the wonder drug that is the image. . . so surreal it'll make you squeal. . . I'm wording up. . .

I'm middle class
but I kick bad ass. . .

HORMONE: Oh, kill him for his sad rhymes.

HELEN: You've got the wrong demographic Charles.

PLUG: Fat poet in the House!

(SFX: Howls of derision, Bottles and cans are hurled. Slow hand clap.)


Raised in the muddle classes
I got sex-ray glasses
I'm a Guardian reader,
used to spin the media


Don't need ya!


I'm a bad-news anchor


Grandstanding wanker


Got some bad wetware


Wet wind from nowhere


I'm opening my word hoard
You're terminally bored. . .


Couldn't kill a dead dog.

BITMAN: OK, fat man, last chance. Dump's gonna pump his box. Here's a rhyme for the times.

(SFX: electro-funk beat under:)


Smash your house robots
I am the butt-burner
I turned off the lite in elite
Don't trash with any old learner
You forgotten the times of your rhymes
I got the alpha male algorithm

(SFX: Cheers, much macho shouting.)


I collaged the knowledge
All you do is pillage
Bits, shit-bytes, tat from the global village
You lost your mnemonics
You're just apeshit brain harmonics!

(SFX: Howls of derision turn to shouts of alarm, confusion and terror. Overlapping beats from a rival sound system approaching. Whistles, horns, carnival mayhem.)

DUMP CRACKER: Hey it's Quantum Slut and her Krew. . . they're in range. . . I got full colour total penetration overload. . .

HELEN: Well, don't just stand there, Charles. . .

SFX: Cross fade into:)

21. Exterior urban doomscape. Rubble and broken glass underfoot. Distant alarms and shouts. Heavy breathing and panting of Charles and Helen running under:

HELEN: (close, internal) You were supposed to make something out of words. To make sense. Make a shape out of a lump. Make a difference. A little world of words that we can live in, a little mime-show, so you can taste kisses on a smokey platform, wine at the tip of your tongue, apples in my blue heaven. A little renewal. Innocence. A story for the innocents before they get massacred.

CHARLES: (with great effort) Every second is a capsule of death.

HELEN: (close, internal) What's your use-value? Say something about a kid with AIDS; a water-hole in Sudan, a brothel in Thailand. All I got from you was high rhetoric about your glands.

(SFX: Helicopters swooping and circling.)

CHARLES: (distant, shouting) Where are we, Helen? The signs are all smashed. Lights out on the global joke box. Trying to say something here. Signs are all mashed, see?

HELEN: It was Leicester Square until a few days ago. Keep moving.

(SFX: Police cars and sirens, a distorted loudhailer voice. It is DWORKIN shouting from a helicopter.)

DWORKIN: Stop. You are entirely surrounded by blood. Stop. Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place and do according to all that the stranger calleth thee for. Stop. And him that followeth her, kill with the sword. Stop.

(SFX: Gunfire.)

CHARLES: Definitely not forged for the action adventure genre. Not me.

HELEN: Action time. . . The talking's all over.

(SFX: Cross fade into:)

22. Interior, confined, dead acoustic.

PLUG: Listen, Cracker, Quantum Slut wants to talk.

DUMP CRACKER: She don't compute with me. Not in my downtime.

PLUG: She can talk nice or she can talk nasty.

DUMP CRACKER: She's just a lo-res sample. Anyway, you download all her nasties.

PLUG: She wants to use the useless Fat Poet.

DUMP CRACKER: Well I let him save himself, didn't I? Now the God Squad can save him. . .

PLUG: She's not pleased, Cracker. You got to track him. Or she's going to go viral on you, all your nets, all the data you've cracked and salvaged —

DUMP CRACKER: No way. . .

PLUG: There's got to be a truce, like working together. . .

DUMP CRACKER: No way never. . .

(SFX: Cross-fade into:)

23. Interior. Cellar acoustic. Footsteps on broken glass.

CHARLES: Not quite the end, Helen.

HELEN: Nowhere to hide. . . no food. . . why. . .?

CHARLES: Welcome to the wreckage of the Poetry Lounge.

HELEN: This is a trap, isn't it? Another of your seedy Soho basements.

CHARLES: It's a time trap. Look at the photos over the bar. . . the signatures. . . Hughes. . . Raine. . . Larkin. . . Auden . . . guardians of the word hoard.

HELEN: Always was a dump for drunks.

CHARLES: We began here. . . Remember. . .?

HELEN: There's no time. Let's go.

CHARLES: After the readings, always the best bit — the post performance lounging. That old red-wine gloom. Your flashing eyes and floating hair.

HELEN: You were just seeking a quick zip. Huff puff and mumble, that was you.

CHARLES: At least I didn't have to pay, no mayday dancing round the terminal pole.

HELEN: That came later, didn't it?

CHARLES: They all pissed off into darkness.

HELEN: That old red-wine darkness. . .

CHARLES: I'm still rampant, you know.

HELEN: You're sick.

CHARLES: White thighs in violet twilight. . .

HELEN: Stop wandering, Charles.

CHARLES: Shall we try it? Right here. . . on this old red vinyl. . .

HELEN: You're wasting your time.

CHARLES: We could copulate in deep time, collapse everything around us into one thick gorgeous minute.

HELEN: Just stop that voice in your head.

CHARLES: A nostalgic orgy in the ruins. . . that's all I want. . . then write my testament.

HELEN: I'm not listening. No more words.

CHARLES: You listened for the gaps between the words. You were the only one.

HELEN: I'm sorry. Charles, you have to understand. . .

CHARLES: And then you were rogered by Sullington.

HELEN: I won't waste my breath.

CHARLES: You were deeply pleasured by Runeberg, weren't you?

HELEN: Stop fooling yourself.

CHARLES: I've ended Runeberg. I can end anything. Even Dworkin will meet his maker.

HELEN: Charles, you're actually terminal. In your brain tissues. It's real.

CHARLES: I'm so surreal I can make you squeal!

HELEN: You can't write yourself into immortality. You're not a rhetorical figure, your termination is not under your control. I'm sorry.

CHARLES: A final frolic, Helen. The power of my drugs is infinite. Feel the power, Helen.

HELEN: Whatever happens here, you're going to be very dead. Very soon. It's all in the brain.

CHARLES: The rhythm is driving me mad as a darling, darling.

HELEN: Your back brain is getting into everything.

CHARLES: The thing is the word is the thing, yes!

HELEN: You just keep feeding everything back.

CHARLES: Just one touch. Little spark between the terminals.

HELEN: You're all over, Charles.

CHARLES: All over for the over-man. . .

HELEN: I'm leaving while I can still make sense.

CHARLES: A riot of the senses. They're talking up bad scenarios out there.

HELEN: I'll take my chances.

CHARLES: Why, Helen? Why?

24. Broadcasting studio interior. SULLINGTON and the PRESENTER are desperately serious:

SULLINGTON: . . . now not never let me answer that answer. The thing is a question, incubating not fully masturbating in a state of national convergency.

PRESENTER: But we're in a procession where people are verbally fused. Is this a new age of signage blockage?

SULLINGTON: Your sign-writers or rather your listeners — we are trying to make a habit here — will underwrite or least stand that basically language sewage, the usage as fractalised, as ever is a growth factor. . .

(Cross fade into:)

25. Interior of church — pentecostalist style service in full swing — members of the congregation are rocking. . . Dworkin's sermon punctuated with organ and guitar chords:

DWORKIN: The first outbreak of this virus is recorded in the story of the Tower of Babel.

CONGREGATION: . . . Yes. . . the tower. . . the power. . . the tower. . . the power. . . feel the power. . . yeah. . .

DWORKIN: And the Babel virus was perpetuated through the worship of Ashteroth, through sexual transmission in cultic temple prostitution.

CONGREGATION: Shame. . . shame. . . shaming and naming. . . shame of the naming.

DWORKIN: Now God is Word, ordered articulated reason.

CONGREGATION: Yeah. . . yay. . . Word. . . praise the Word! Word!

DWORKIN: This Word creates the hardware of physical reality — in which something goes bad. So God has to introduce a written code, in which his life transforming memes would be transmitted.

CONGREGATION: Right on. . . on. . . on. . . and on. . .

DWORKIN: But God was not content to have these memes float freely through human society. These memes needed to be incubated through human flesh, so the Word, became flesh. . .

CONGREGATION: Ah. . . flesh. . . fallen flesh. . . feel the flesh. . .

DWORKIN: If God is indeed the ultimate memetic engineer, but he is not the only memetic engineer. His greatest student is also his arch enemy. Satan.

CONGREGATION (en masse): Satan. . . Satan. . .

DWORKIN: Satan is the spiritual Microsoft of reality. He controls the operating system of our world, and he bundles a set of demonic memes with every human life unit. And now the end-times are manifesting all around us. . .

(SFX: The CONGREGATION go hysterical. Much speaking in tongues.)

CONGREGATION: Shalalalalalalalaahhh! Lubululululalalualabuaal!

(SFX: The glossalia mix into external chaotic street ambience and continue bubbling under:)

PRESENTER (calm, totally professional on the spot reporter): The streets still crawl with organic life. The tottering stockpile of their lives looms and shudders. Cars blaze unattended. Shreds of verbiage flutter through the broken glazing. Don't look to me for character building. Peel off another life style but it won't do you any good. You only have a few units of character left. The pinky grey lobes of your personal night will shortly look terrifying. Your flight paths are degraded. You're all spirals of dead code. Down-sizing fast. . .

CHARLES: (close, reverb) I know I'm only a toad in the hole of your heart. A word-troll, lured by glamour pussy, the sparkle of cappuccino foam on lost lips. The clatter of imagined monorails across the dream of a city where women in op-art tops stroke our white suits as we sup at perspex tables by the boulevard.

(SFX: interior, dead.)

RUNEBERG (filtered, distant, robotic, dead, over ambient drone): In the event of my death I want all neural loops sampled and quantised. I never did like time. In the event of my death I want all neural loops sampled and quantised. I never did like time. In the event of my death I want all neural loops sampled and quantised. I never did like time.

(SFX: RUNEBERG repeats and slowly fades under:)


last window into late afternoon
the street signs corroded
maisonettes overgrown
sky grey as dead elephants

his memoires went furry with disease
a tissue of rivulets and lost clefts

drained of wine at last
we became the memory of water

(Long fade.)