Q. William Wall

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William Stabile has asked me to post this poem. A brief account of its writing and our collaboration can be found amomg the last comments on Luca’s ‘Matilda’ post. It is very long and if people feel it’s too long, please say so and I’ll remove it.
I would like to say that it is intended to be darkly funny, an angry rejection of the concept of the ‘cripple’ which Q embraces so readily. Q is short for Quasimodo, by the way, but no reference to the Sicilian poet is intended! On the page (or screen) the poem looks more bizarre than it is, because I rejected the idea of inserting speech marks. It is best heard, or read aloud, insofar as it has any perticular merit.
It appeared in my second collection of poems, and was almost unique in the collection for the fact that no critic chose to comment on it!
I have worked closely with Will on the translation, but he has refused to show me the finished version. I look forward to seeing it on Rizoma.

for all the Still’s and RA people

Q conspires with God
who appears in a green
gown and wears latex.
He leaves no forensics.

Scalpel, he says.
Q says: Say please.
Clamp, he says.
Say please. Chainsaw.

God is mechanics
and the triumph of engineering
and Q thinks
he is filling up with dead bits.

In the aftermath
he is ecstatic,
drifting between death and sleep
awash with pain.

It’s a good one, God says,
a beautiful piece.
Give me a spare rib, he jokes,
and I’ll give you a prosthesis.


Q forms a secret society.
How will we know? they say.
We all have our secret mark, Q says,
A legless man

a woman with claws
titanium knees
one short leg one long
and a spinal question mark.

We have the worm
in the knuckle
the teredo of bones
and balloon skin.

We are the beautiful,
the heirs,
the aristocracy of pain
and we’re in for the long haul.


I hate that vulgar crowd,
but I whistle at virgins, he says.
The mighty
auctioneer and valuer,
the client-server,
the politician in his pride,
they go the way of flesh,

but we are immortal
bits and pieces,
non omnis moriar et cetera –
Telling it like it is.
Fear enters
by the jugular,

a tidal surge –
regrets and confidences,
I love you
one and all,
but the fish
feels the shrinking
when he feels the stone.

By the absence of evidence,
by a process of elimination,
by all that is good
and all that is warped,
by your leave,
by guess and by god,
by the pricking of thumbs,
by hook or by crook,
by the hokey,
by jaysus,
by the shortcut and long,
by the fields and the road,
by night and by day,
bifurcate and not,
Q knows.

Wake up time Mr Q,
God says, SMILE.

And he did
and glass in the looking-glass broke,
non-shatters shat,
stretchers shrank
and lifts dropped,
and hospital cat
got at the mortuary,
and nurses gave suck
and the world was a worse place
for his waking.


He comes to the point.
Pain maketh the man.
(Time flies. His hip is a lace-cap.)
God says, Tried in the fire?
At least I tried.

Q says, I can’t take it anymore
and who created Satan
and free will is all my arse.
and God says, Child.
and Q keeps mum,

thinks: Oh all this
is too much,
a bit over the top,
only an infinite mind
could imagine it:

the variety,
the subtlety.
So I believe, said Q
and God went away


Q is for half-made
self-made half-man
half-man half-hearted
a fine half.

queasy Q.
Half-a-leg is better

than no-leg,
half a heart follows.
By leaps and by bounds
he travels

always half
the remaining distance,
never actually ending
his half-life

although he has half a mind to,
semi Q demi Q mezzo Q
(over one would do).

He learned vanishing
in a puff of spores
leaving only his mushroom skin,
the bloat, the steroid moonskin.

People said:
How well you look,
your skin is as fresh.
We expected worse.

Q lingers in the air
like someone’s ashes.
Never inhale.
His existence is sinovial.


Q is a bat
paragliding corridors,
he beeps and is not heard,
the nightflitter.

His droppings are aluminium,
light white ductile,
they scatter underfoot
like marbles.

He sees everything.
His hearing is above average
even for a bat.
When the treatment stops

he crashes,
a cloud of batspores,
a crumpled tearful child
complaining of pain.

He begs them:
Give me back my bones.
Skin is nothing
but something

to go out in.
I am empty inside,
hollowfibrous Q,
Qpuffball, Qfug.


Q’s whiskers frisk the brown-eyed nurse.
He sniffs her starch, tickles inner, insinuates.
Things are in there tight and then he is

a slippery brown shape ratting under wear,
tipping at will. She feels him.
‘Are we comfy?’ she says, taking him in her stride.


Q meets The Good Cripple
who smiles at him.
Into each life,

and we all have our cross,
and things could be worse,
and tomorrow is another day.

Q guts him
with a boning knife
and frames his rictus.

In his worst nightmares
those lips come back
to kiss him well,

Momma’s little boy
every child is perfect.

Lies lies,
he screams,


The surgeon is a graceful man,
his hands are delicate as ice,
he makes the cut,
his pride the micro-zip.

The surgeon is a graceful man,
he has a keen eye
for the beauty
of higher mammals.

Praise the surgeon who slits
who saws the bones
who chisels out the bits
who glues the plastic hip

and leaves
the surreal wires
spinning like electrons

Into the spare room of aspirants,
the transplant hearts, kidneys, livers, eyes,

such delicate valves and bivalves and molluscs,
the plastic hips and knees, sub specie sterile.

Q comes in and pokes around, and sneezes.
Naughty naughty Mr Q, sneezing spreads germs.

Haven’t you ever heard of handkerchiefs?
God chalks it down to Q, another black one,

a mortaller, because he meant it.
No pleading please, no insanity

in this jurisdiction. What you did
was wrong, naughty naughty Mr Q.


I believe in one god, says Q,
who made me what I am.
The bastard knew, he knew,
what I would turn into.

So sue, says god,
I got it covered.
And Q sued
and lost.


Q sees that the world
is a point of view
that cannot be upheld,

that everything he can say
has its exact antonym
and if he can assert

both the existence
and the non-existence
of anything

then that thing
is meaningless.
He thinks he is a lost child

in a gingerbread house
eating his way out,
an elderly Alice

gazing at a sepia-tint
of what he was
in the naked long-ago.


being of sound mind
bequeath my body to medicine
until my death

but afterwards
to the brown-eyed nurse
for her particular pleasure
and edification

or as a memento mori,
and speaking of which
I leave my mind
donatio mortis causa

to S. Freud and C .G. Jung
to be divided between them
in equal parts
the left side going

to the latter
and the right to the former
and if they predecease me
the whole shooting match

to the cat,
but the dead bits in gratitude
for services rendered
go to God.


Is there anyone in there
when the lights are on
or is it Q
hiding out from the posse?

Come out now
or forever be silent
incubus mine,
my Q.

Your hands will be whole again
risen as you promised,
your legs will be whole again,
your spine will be straight again,

your neck will bend,
and when you come forth
you will have comfort
Q Dante Q phoenix

Lazarus Q.
Here lieth a crook
that was once straight as larch,
claws once piano,

legs marathon,
ramrod spine,
too much neck,
relict of Q

awaiting judgement.
Oh hand me down the judgement
and let there be
in the heel of the hunt

one single day of remission,
and they make the cut
(the flesh is alabaster)
and there for all to see

the last word


24 thoughts on “Q. William Wall

  1. Dear all, there is something that came into my mind already as I was following the comments on Matilda, but I think it also entails on the concept of ‘cripplessness’. Actually it makes me wonder that Q is a Mr. Q: as a woman, I had to get used very early to pain and ‘cripplessnees’ (meaning the inability to do certain things that one considers as ‘normal’ – debate is open on this matter): as I read once, a woman is considered healthy when she bleeds regularly (and, always, with a certain amount of pain)…a weird thing in its own right. Still, as I’ve been in and out of hospital for the last week or so, I feel the eerie fascination of surgery and the making-up or man (or, again in this case, a woman). But what I’d like to know from our maestromuro is a follow-up of another, previous debate: what about this ‘God’ (both with capital and non-capital g)? To me it sounds, though in a very different key, like Leopardi’s ‘natura matrigna’ – now that I think of it, Leopardi was a cripple himself…sorry for the randomness of my thoughts, I hope I’ll be able to be more consequential next time. in the meantime lots of love to all s

  2. Fascinating that the question of ‘post-religious’ comes back here, from the other thread (the other side) … I, too, found the diabolical quality of the poem/chant reminiscent of an a-theological diatribe … Latréamont’s The Chants of Maldoror comes to mind … GK …

    “Blood red letters – The most famous illustrated edition of Les chants du Maldoror is that of Salvador Dalí (1934). Belgian artist René Magritte also produced drawings for the book (1946). However, the first illustrated edition is from 1927, produced by the Belgian artist Frans De Geetere. The six songs have been divided into two thick printed volumes for this edition, and have been illustrated with 65 sombre etches, emphasising the text’s grim, sadistic nature. The cover sets the tone right away: the title is printed on it in blood red letters, as on the poster for a horror movie. The illustrator was also responsible for the book’s typography.”(1)

    1 – http://www.kb.nl/bc/koopman/1926-1930/c63-en.html

  3. I can already feel the resonance which propagates through the net.. The ghost of Isidore Ducasse has been conjured up:

    he crashes,
    a cloud of batspores,
    a crumpled tearful child
    complaining of pain

    But also Crow.. Is Q another version of Crow?

  4. Hands up, this time Gavin. God is in this one all right, but not the god of cripples. This one is the sardonic enemy of the halt and the lame. He’s enjoying the game. Thank you for the Chants reference. I’m going to look at it in detail tomorrow. And yes, Luca, Crow is in there somewhere too. It’s Hughes best book, in my opinion. His most human.
    Serena, this question of bleeding interests me (something I’m working on…). When you’re well again, or when you have a chance, I’d love if you could enlarge on the idea a bit. I’m not familiar with Leopardi’s work. Does ‘natura matrigna’ mean something like mother nature? How does he define it?
    Thank you all for your responses.

  5. William – Shall we mention the word demi-urge instead of God? …. Shall we mention gnosticism and its war against the demi-urge? … Shall we bring up (back) Lacan and the Names-of-the-Father (and Derrida’s ‘use’ of this regarding the archive)? … The resonance with Lautréamont is illustrative of a certain pseudo-diabolical, fauve, anti-Victorian thing (remember/note, en route to his re-discovery by the Surrealists, that he was first celebrated by the decadents (of the late 19th century) … All of this is to say, Q is a victim of the machinic demi-urge and Cripple is a name that is named as a place-holder for ‘fallen, miserable creature’, or how language echoes other Names — e.g., authorized, de-humanizing names … GK …

  6. All right william, i’ll pick up your encouragement and try to say what I was thinking about. As it often happens in my comments, I’ll start with life experiences that, though limited in their scope and in the interest they can rise in others, are useful to make my point. As every ‘healthy’ woman, I spend two-three days per month (when I’m lucky) with belly, back, and head-aches, plus with all the side-effects of a severe bleeding. Of course, there are also popular beliefs about menstruation (you can’t have a swim go to the gym dye your hair, etc.), which are themselves medically unfounded but still in place in many contexts, and add up to the idea of menstruation as a sickness or cripplessness. Plus. I first went to a gynecologist at 18, and randomly every two-three years until I was about 27, when I started going every year. When I’ll turn 40 (or even before that), I’ll need to start having my breasts checked every one-two years, and the checks will multiply as I get older – not to speak of the further checks should I ever get pregnant. My point is, the medicalization of my body does not depend on any actual pathology, but exclusively from the fact of being a woman. Thus: is being a woman a pathology in itself? And is pregnancy a more severe, say an aggravation of this pathology, like being infested by a parasite that will in due time be expelled? I know this view may prove unpopular, but it offers a change of perspective on many aspects. It also adds up to the idea that lingers in the shadows of Q – that is, of human condition itself as a pathology. And still…a healthy, desirable pathology? With God not as a demi-urge but as a desired-desirable fatherly surgeon-psychoanalyst?
    Well, I hope I haven’t bored you guys too much. Love to all s.

  7. I’m interested, Serena. I’ll write more when I get a chance. But isn’t this a result of a patriarchal society, defining women as a problem that must be managed? Whether she must be managed by witchcraft (cleansing, purifying) or by medicine, she is still an abnormality – normality being defined as the masculine state. What if men were the freaks because they don’t bleed and can’t conceive, have multiple orgams (as far as I know) or feed their children from their breasts? Really, we are very badly designed.
    One of the things that has always puzzled me is what the evolutionary function of menstrual pain could be. All the biology makes sense, except for that.

  8. It is the naming of these things as pathologies, plus their stigmatizing, that suggests we are, indeed!, in the realm of disembodied ideology (a.k.a. the Names-of-the-Father) … GK … It is inescapeable, even if you wish to deny it …

  9. Ah will, I’ve been asking myself this question for the last 17 years…but without being able to find an answer. In the moments of worst pain I of course blamed my step-mother Nature (Leopardi’s ‘natura matrigna’), who made me such a freak…by the way, Leopardi’s nature is of course feminine, while Q’s god is plainly masculine, but otherwise they have much in common. Isn’t that right Luca?
    I didn’t draw the conclusion you make myself out of respect for Luca, who often scolds my radical feminist positions. Still, I’ve always believed that there is something of the woman in men as well in this sense…in the realm of the Name-of-the-Father, as I think Zizek says, every subjectivity is feminine in the sense that it is defined by a lack (of a phallus, of ‘normality’)…Q’s reference to Freud and Jung I think makes the point. I only think men have still to elaborate this (instead of keeping projecting it onto others), that is what feminism has done for women. But maybe you all can be considered a good start (as they say a lawyer in a pool of sharks is)…xs

  10. No Gavin, I’m not denying it. I became a cripple along time ago and came to terms with it. It doesn’t define me. But, you see, as a concept that leads to terms like demi-urge, to Lacan and the denial of pleasure and so on, it doesn’t really interest me. I think worrying about God is an excuse for not worrying about what the patriarchy is up to now (screwing us, taking our labour, filling their pockets, killing us, despising us).
    For me the term ‘God’ is a personification of ‘bad luck’ or pain, or the chaos that governs the universe. Or it’s a useful metaphor, as I said before. But, this is the God of the man in the battle-fatigues, the Armani suit, the porsche. He’s cruel, spiteful, sadistic.
    Your God (if he is your god) is supposed to be the god of the meek who will inherit the earth. To your god, i say, give us the hearts of the soldiers and we’ll take it for you. But your god, if he exists, gives the hearts of the soldiers to the people who have the money.
    I’m not denying the validity of your way of reading the poem, for you, but it crystallises around the term ‘cripple’ for me: the cripples I talk about in this poem are actually crippled, to a greater or lesser extent. I imagine them seizing the world, because there are more of them than the others. Of course, they fail.
    Serena’s question has more valdity for me: is man him/herself a cripple. Perhaps we’re evolution’s great mistake. Words like ‘fallen’ suggest a state of non-fallenness. There never was such a state.

  11. I throw the following into the mix … Feel free to free associate … But, at least, allow me to add that one’s work reflects one’s state (and, ‘here’, apropos of Caravaggio, is is lowered to the most absurd degree by being made an attribute of his ‘humour’ (sanguine?), in the medieval sense — or his blackness comes from his blackness … This all suggests a huge problem with every version of naming things to, in turn, stigmatize them … GK …

    “But Caravaggio (as he was called by everyone, with the name of his native town) was becoming more famous every day because the colouring he was introducing was not sweet and delicate as before, but became boldly dark and black, which he used abundantly to give relief to the forms. He went so far in this style that he never showed any of his figures in open daylight, but instead found a way to place them in the darkness of a closed room, placing a lamp high so that the light would fall straight down, revealing the principal part of the body and leaving the rest in shadow so as to produce a powerful contrast of light and dark.” Giovanni Pietro Bellori, “Michelangelo da Caravaggio” [1672], Giorgio Mancini, Giovanni Baglione, Giovanni Pietro Bellori, Lives of Caravaggio (London: Pallas Athene, 2005), pp. 63-64 … “Caravaggio’s style corresponded to his physiognomy and appearance; he had a dark complexion and dark eyes, and his eyebrows and hair were black; this colouring was naturally reflected in his paintings. His first style, sweet and pure in colour, was his best; he made great achievement in it and proved that he was a most excellent Lombard colourist. But afterward, driven by his own nature, he retreated to the dark style that is connected to his disturbed and contentious temperament.” Ibid., p. 92 …

  12. Ah, Gavin, I become pugnacious at the mention of God, but Caravaggio! I’ve seen a great many of his paintings (a touch of archive fever there, maybe) and I’ve stood on the beach where he died at porto Ercole. The man was a wonder 0as well as a murderer and a rogue).
    Have you read David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge?

  13. I dropped Caravaggio into this for reasons that relate to the perception of ‘work’ as a reflection of the author’s ‘soul’ … His demise is part and parcel of the myth of the romantic artist — whether fighting against the Names-of-the-Father or not … His work is what matters most … The art-hysterical stuff is highly misleading … Q is a curious amalgam of spite and malice, and anti-hero as well … GK …

  14. Bill, it is interesting to see that phone-tically speaking english and dialect have a lot in common. For ex. criPPle in neapolitan would be o’ struPPiato. You can see and taste the two Ps .
    In spanish aBurrido would be Boring…

  15. Ciao Will.
    Sometimes you just wonder about the supposed Indo-European thing. And then you also wonder if there are maybe a handful of basic sound systems, all of which operate at fundamental levels in the same way – some kind of onompatopoeia, some kind of alliteration etc – so that if we could go back twenty or thirty thousand years we’d all understand each others grunts, wails and expletives. And then, grammar is so similar across ranges of languages – nouns, verbs, inflection etc – it’s all rather strange and wonderful really.

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