ADULTHOOD by Paul Stephenson


Paul Stephenson reading Adulthood


Adulthood as The Talented Mr. Ripley


You wonder if this is how Tom Ripley felt,

wearing a borrowed Princeton jacket

and landing up in Italy, pretending to be

somebody while hanging out with socialites.


How he really felt, befriending Marge

while obsessing over Dickie, dressing up

in another man’s clothes – alone in a palazzo

by night, dancing in front of the mirror.


What it’s like inside? Being the only one

who will ever know what happened

in the winding streets of Mongibello.


Deep down, you feel like Tom – adrift

in open sea, looking down to find an oar

in your hands, and blood. Scuttling the boat.



Day Trip with an Attitude


Nonchalance and I take a train to Nantes.

Nothing to see – a blanket of fog till Le Mans.

We arrive. Nonchalance doesn’t care for coffee

or a croissant. Empty-stomached Nonchalance.


I buy a city map, ask what it fancies doing first,

suggest a walk down the river, across to the island,

for a ride on the giant mechanical elephant.

Nonchalance sighs, drags its heels en province.


What about the Jules Vernes Museum, I enquire,

You know, him of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days?’

Ner, winces Nonchalance, as if he’s seen it all,

You go, I’ll just wait outside and sit on the fence.


Hey, we could climb the ramparts of the château

then rinse our tonsils in the local plonk?

Nonchalance shrugs its shoulders – soberly,

says, I’m teetotal. Can’t stand royal history.


The cathedral took 457 years to finish! I insist.

It was hit by Allied bombing, the roof ravaged by fire.

Nonchalance isn’t listening but sat in a trance,

headphones in, volume up, nodding, ensconced.






Early to the classroom.

Ten thousand press-ups

next to the desk

before morning register.



Lightning off the block.

A greyhound chasing

the rabbit round the floodlit

tracks at Walthamstow.



Not KFC.

An emporium with atrium,

all the pheasants hanging

in Harrod’s food hall.



A game of hopscotch.

The pastel chalk numbers

washed away

in a series of showers.



A heavy goods vehicle

carrying flammable liquid,

all gleaming silver hub caps

and faulty



                         that swerves

and jackknifes,

                         smashing through               the barriers,



              rolling over,

                              down into

                                                           the ravine.






Paul Stephenson has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), which won the Poetry Business pamphlet competition judged by Billy Collins; The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016), written while living in the Paris at the time of the November 2015 terrorist attacks; and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He took part in the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme and the Aldeburgh Eight. He recently completed an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) with the Manchester Writing School. He co-edited the ‘Europe’ issue of Magma (70) and co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh. He interviews poets at and is on instagram: paulstep456

7 July 2021