Friday, 15 January 2021

Sudden Prose Reprints: "I Was Trying to Make Peace with My Past" by Vik Shirley

I Was Trying to Make Peace with My Past,

 

but my past was making it very difficult. Every time I would go to shake its hand, it put thumb to nose and wiggled its fingers. I tried cooking it a nice meal. All it did was make a fuss about the bones I'd left in the lamb tagine, to enhance the flavour. I tried Martinis: it didn't like olives; pavlova: it had a meringue allergy; after-dinner coffee: it couldn't have caffeine after 3pm. I started to wonder if it might have been easier to have remained enemies. Or better still, if I'd thought of it earlier, I could have poisoned the food and killed the past. But I knew one thing the past liked and that was a drink. So I slipped antifreeze into its Amaretto liqueur, and as we sat and drank, smoking Cuban cigars, listening to Andy Williams, I smiled to myself, knowing that any minute, the ethylene glycol would kick in. It was then the past turned to me and said: "I know I act mean, but I would like to make friends or peace or whatever you want to call it." I stumbled to the kitchen, where I added the remaining poison to my White Russian and downed it. Then we lay together, in each other's arms, until, at last, we were at peace. 


Vik Shirley

Friday, 4 December 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Object Poem" by Jane Monson

 Object Poem


We do not write about the object--we write about the shadow it casts or the reflection it throws back at us. We talk about the setting, the human dramas that crowd outside it. We try to know them all. The language. The disasters. We write about the wind that moves, throws, or breaks it, but ignore that so low to the ground, something like a stone can remain complete and still during the unhinged run of a hurricane, and that stillness of a tiny thing without so much of a flinch when nothing else stands a chance, is worth a thought at least. The words can follow later, in a mere handful, and that is something. Something at least, on which to build, or not, as the case may be.


Jane Monson
Speaking without Tongues (Cinnamon, 2010)

Friday, 27 November 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "What Death Said" by Jane Monson

What Death Said


Here the wind is too subtle, too unseen. Even the dew on the grass is safe, the ant's straight line over the slate and the slack wire line from tree to wall--even this is static, stock-still in the air. She waits for a change, a sneeze or a sigh, some shift in the view. She does not trust or know nature like this--inanimacy, she finds, breeds a tension like death. For this, she is always unprepared, always taken aback--to the night on a long lost road, waiting out the surprise that comes when death pricks open her eyes and says: you have known me before I have known you.

 

Jane Monson
Speaking without Tongues (Cinnamon, 2010)

Friday, 20 November 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Early Retirement" by Ian Seed

 

Early Retirement


After many years abroad, I moved to a small village in Cornwall. The locals immediately took to me because I seemed foreign and exotic. The plump, middle-aged woman at the Post Office asked me if I would take on the leading male role in a production that was going to be put on at the village hall. She would play the leading lady. I was too ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t be able to remember the lines. Instead I told her my schedule was already packed, mumbling a lie about a book to write. She blushed as if I’d slapped her. Perhaps another year, I suggested, though I knew my memory would be even worse by then. She shook her head. My standing in the community would never be the same again. 

 

 

Ian Seed

New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018) 

Friday, 13 November 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Volunteer" by Ian Seed


Volunteer


We were all in a large tent. Sitting at untidily laid-out trestle tables, we had to sort out hundreds of letters, stick labels with addresses on envelopes, put the letters inside and seal them with a lick. I was surprised at how quickly my mouth and tongue got sore. I had come in good faith, but was now wondering how I could escape.


A tall American lady dressed in a red uniform seemed to be standing guard at the flap door. She wanted to know why I was leaving so soon. Before I could reply, she pointed to the ring on my finger. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘the best ones always get taken, don’t they?’ She gave me a bundle of large letters and envelopes to take home with me, to make sure I was kept busy and useful.

 

 

Ian Seed

New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018) 

 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Evolution" by Ian Seed

 

Evolution

 

There were some large black ducks, not unlike dodos, by the German lake. I began pushing one gently by the beak until it pushed back and then slowly and clumsily chased me round and round. From nearby metal benches, some Germans looked on bemused.  


We hadn’t been here since my daughter was a toddler. At that time, she was frightened by the birds, and I had played the same game to amuse her. Now she was a teenager exploring the old town on her own, while my wife slept off her hangover. I had nothing better to do.


A German man, roughly the same age and height as me, but much broader in the shoulder, got up and started playing my game with one of the ducks. But he did so in an aggressive and exaggerated manner, as if to parody me. The others smiled and their eyes lit up, perhaps anticipating my inevitable humiliation.

 

 

Ian Seed

New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018) 

Friday, 3 July 2020

Sudden Prose Reprints: "XXXII" by Marosa di Giorgio

XXXII

     They said that the god was coming to visit. The bustling began at dawn. We set out the best tablecloth, the most exquisite eggs in syrup, the little plates filled with ripe olives and pearls. All morning we watched the air and the sky, the trees, the lone clouds. Someone knocked on the door, but we did not answer; we just wanted to be alone and pray.
     But, at noon, he arrived--we didn't know from where. There he stood with his long braids, his woolen cloak, his colossal wooden staff. We dropped to our knees, praying and crying; we served him the finest food, the fantasy rooster, everything adorned with big sprinkles. He ate his lunch, drank, and explored the house; he declared that he wanted to take something with him, since he was never going to return. He examined the cupboards, the chandeliers, the little porcelain cups, the big clock at the foot of my grandmother's bed; he smelled the oak trees and basil; he searched the wardrobe, drawer by drawer; he looked into the album; he asked which one was Celia. We showed him my little sister.
     He chose her.


Marosa di Giorgio, translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas
(Ugly Duckling, 2010)