Friday, 25 January 2019

Sudden Prose Reprints: "the outside air" by Alessandra Lynch

the outside air

Though it's still blue, the mist here is not the future mist and the rain not the same rain and the corner field not a parking lot. No sound from the pond. No after-stir. Charred flies skitter over its silent vellum, and chimney swifts dodge the irrefutable air. And there are other alterations, other speeds.

From underfoot, doves startle. Leaves hang their dry masks over the trail, rattling slightly. On the western bank, a tree--aloof from its cutoff dress--all sheathed bark, reads as skin, reads as: can-be-shed. Will-be-pared.

The air once deep enough to breathe, too shallow to wade. Broken armed women sinking and rising. Their mouths, fixed as megaphones. Their faces undone.

Alessandra Lynch
Daylily Called It a Dangerous Moment (Alice James Books, 2017)

Friday, 11 January 2019

Sudden Prose Reprints: "New Territories" by Jennifer Lee Tsai

New Territories

When I first get off the plane, the heat hits me, tropical, alien. For once, I’m no different. The anonymity subdues me. This is where my past begins. I meet my uncle for steamed bamboo baskets of dim sum and oolong tea. He is tall, fair-skinned, almost like a gweilo, people say. From my aunt’s apartment windows, I see tendrils of mist rise from Tai Mo Shan mountain. Mammoth dragonflies hover, translucent-winged, their presence signalling the imminent fall of rain. I look for traces of my grandmother. A woman I meet, from the same village as her, mourns for her orphaned children, laments the tyrant husband, the cruelty of the mother-in law. She remembers my mother as a child. By day, I read the Tao Te Ching. I want to understand something about the nature of emptiness, start again somehow. The character for Tao contains a head and a walking foot which means the way. In the Chi Lin nunnery on Diamond Hill, there are lotus ponds, bonsai tea plants, purple and orange bougainvillea. Behind intricate screens nuns offer fruit and rice to Buddha. High-rise apartments tower in the background.

Jennifer Lee Tsai 

An earlier version of this poem appeared in Ten: Poets of the New Generation, ed. Karen McCarthy Woolf (Bloodaxe: 2017).

Friday, 4 January 2019

Sudden Prose Reprints: "This Is the End" by Suzannah Evans

This Is the End   

It's 1999 and we're rehearsing the school play – a devised piece set at the end of the world, in a motel run by the devil. Surely some revelation is at hand shouts Mr Maxwell, millennial prophet and head of Theatre Studies. We shout back Surely the second coming is at hand. Because this is the West Midlands we pronounce it Shirley.

The performance date is after the predicted apocalypse so no-one's made much effort with their lines. Mr M makes us sit in the gym with the lights off and listen to The End by the Doors. Theatre doesn't last forever, he says, like life. We sit cross-legged on the polished floor while he paces between us, grinning in the dark.


In the early hours of New Years' Day, unsteady with alcopops, we watch the firework display from the bridge and make our elaborate plans for the year ahead.

The play gets mixed reviews from both staff and students and Lucifer goes back to his life as a sixth-former named Gareth. We patch and cut the costumes into something else, ready for next term's Midsummer Night's Dream.  

Sometimes now I hear that song and remember how it felt to live under that weight of danger, how I carried those words with me all winter, as ice laced itself over the pavements, as I walked home under the viaduct and the sky lowered itself over everything.

Suzannah Evans
Near Future (Nine Arches, 2018) 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: "What Did the Orange Gain" by Anna Reckin

What did the orange gain

                                           when it lost its 'n'? Orotundity and foreignness--an orange is rounder than a naranja. It announces its roundness at the very beginning, out loud in black type: O.

But the 'n' didn't just drop off and fall away, a curl of peel. It slid across into negative space, no-man's land, the indefinite article. There it is, in the middle: empty vessel without so much as an outline around it. 

You can't throw a circle off-balance, but a painting needs a tipping movement. Something to set the eye rolling, ball on a see-saw. Teeter-totter, the clatter of utensils. Cutting board, and the knife's an indicator. Spin it like a needle, and see whose heart it points to. 

Not many murder stories happen in kitchens, despite all the knives, the opportunities. Or maybe they're disembodied--the murders, I mean. Acid, or the ones that slowly boil away until the pan runs dry. Spices whose oils evanesce into the atmosphere...

                                                            the vanishing's the point.

Anna Reckin
Line to Curve (Shearsman, 2018)


Friday, 30 November 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Pancake" by Lila Matsumoto


Oh! The horror vacui of the crevice between refrigerator and wall. I call my reliable caulker, and she arrives after lunchtime with an armful of smooshable foodstuffs, eventually electing pancakes as her most preferred medium.

Lila Matsumoto
Urn & Drum (Shearsman, 2018)

Friday, 23 November 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Fish" by Anna Reckin


A few hours after dawn, under a bridge in the middle of the city, a wooden rowing-boat, with two fishermen in it. Downstream is the outlet from the printworks, where the swans gather in a rush of warm water; upstream the corrugated cardboard factory, a choking smell of damp paper. Along here, the river's shut in, with straight-sided banks and paved paths, squared off like a canal. I would never expect fish to be here. I would think that they would stay in the greener shady places where the river edges what were once water-meadows (sand and gravel still), now playing-fields.

That night I dream of the fish in the river. The river's course has straightened, blocked off into a long narrow pool: a tank in a Mughal miniature. The city walls are smooth and high, fortified, with watchtowers, and the buildings crowd up against them: towers, domes and minarets. It's after dark, and a single fish hangs in the water, gleaming in the night-time stone.

Anna Reckin
Line to Curve (Shearsman, 2018)

Monday, 19 November 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Fondant Cake" by Lila Matsumoto

Fondant Cake

This fondant cake is here for you. A crisp, almost brittle crust, and a rich and dark crumb. Also this grief bacon.

Lila Matsumoto
Urn & Drum (Shearsman, 2018)