The Last Custodian is the second collection from poet Stephen Lightbown. This incredible dystopia novella follows a paraplegic who wakes to find he is the sole survivor of an unknown apocalypse. He decides to survive and spends a year navigating the empty motorways of England to see if he really is the only one left alive. He sets off with only his wheelchair and enough food and medical supplies to last a week. To live beyond that he must adapt and scavenge. Told through a daily account of poems he begins to question his own identity, whether you are disabled if there is no-one to be compared to and what does it mean to want to move forwards.

The pre order link is now live on Stephen’s website – order a copy ahead of it’s release 30th June. To celebrate the release, Stephen will be on Instagram Live every day from the 5th-9th July reading from the book with a BSL interpreter. Plus more celebrations to come!

Below is the first poem from The Last Custodian to peek your interest:

Day 1: Bristol

I drink the juice from the tinned peaches.
Gulp down survivor syndrome, ignore
the urge to add cream and lady fingers.
Thinking of dessert doesn’t seem right
when I can’t smile at you across our table
raised on four yoga blocks. A small ooze
of sugar water escapes from the tin
and settles in my beard. I leave it, fantasise
about an exhausted bee replenishing
itself on my chin. I wipe the sticky residue
away with a grubby hand. I’m so bereft
of contact that the thought of a bee
coming for pleasure, then leaving
to return to the hive, revitalised,
is simply too much.

Stephen Lightbown is a Blackburn-born, Bristol-based poet and disability rights champion. Paralysed following an accident in 1996 when he was sixteen, Stephen uses his poems to give a voice to his disability. He has spoken at events across the UK and at festivals such as Shambala, WOMAD, Verve Poetry Festival and Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival. In addition, Stephen has read internationally in San Antonio, Texas.