Christian Karlson Stead

‘Without’, by C.K. Stead

A View of Cape Stephens in Cook's Straits (New Zealand) with Waterspout, 1776Without

Crossing Cook Strait
going home to be
ordained in the

parish of his
father, while seas wished
by and the wind

had its say in the
wires, it came to
him there was no

God. Not that
God was sulking or had
turned His back—that

had happened
often. It was that God
wasn’t there, was

nowhere, a Word
without reference or
object. Who was

God? He was the
Lord. What Lord was
that? The Lord God. Back

and forth it went while
stern lifted, screw
shuddered, stars glowed

and faded. The
universe was losing
weight. It was

then he threw his
Bible into the
sea. He was a

poet and would
write his own. Happiness
was nothing

but not being
sad. It was your
self in this one and

only moment
without grief or
remorse, without God

or a future—sea,
sky, the decks
rolling underfoot.

– Christian Karlson Stead, ‘Without’ in The Red Tram (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2004), 52–3.

[Image: William Hodges, ‘A View of Cape Stephens in Cook’s Straits (New Zealand) with Waterspout, 1776’, 1776.]