Friday, 30 March 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: 'You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave' by Maya Catherine Popa

You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave

after the 2015 Tbilisi flood

Half the zoo mislaid, the reporter calls them residents, as though they lived in a gracious, gated community. Twelve Georgian men push one perplexed hippo: no Russell Crowe as Noah, no sidekick with a checklist. How to convince a lion to return to its cage when it's seen the Narikala lit at night? The things you wished you would happen in this life have you caught in old affection, fresh confusion. In your version, the animals were never hungry or afraid. They climbed the trees of Tbilisi for a better view. The wolves returned to forests in the Trialeti Mountains. The fate of birds was ambiguous as the founding legend of King Gorgasali who, huntin, shot a pheasant that fell into a spring, cooked or healed, accounts differ. So the literal king named the place "Tpili" meaning warm. Three brown bears lie limp in mud as police, in the ultimate video game sequence, big-game hunt the square at night. Your wish, succumbed to its alterations. At mass, the priest reminds the congregation that bells and crosses melted down by communists became the bars of cages, the ticket operator's chair. You always wished the animals would leave, their problem-solving spirits put to use, lifting fruits from markets, befriending lonely citizens. But time twists your childhood dream until it's nothing but a game of telephone, just as the bird, or was it a deer, or the king himself, fell into the waters and was spared.

Maya Catherine Popa
You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave (New Michigan Press, 2018)

Friday, 23 March 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: 'Long Distance' by Mary Jean Chan

I read this poem by Mary Jean Chan in PN Review and at once asked if I could reprint it in this series. 

Long Distance

You are running on the rain-dark pavement through Sutton Park. Where I am, all the dehumidifers are on in the house. No fireplaces. Some seas are colder than others, some bodies warmer. I am drinking Iron-Buddha, a cup of tea leaves waiting to blossom. It is too Spring here for my own good, too much green in the salad bowl. Too many stories of salvation; earlier, blue beyond belief. The moon is lying on its back in my dreams. What a smile looks like. A toothbrush touches my lips. Asian steamed sea bass for dinner, with white rice. Polar bears have black skin. Victoria Harbor was named after your Queen. How many hearts in a deck of cards shuffled across two continents? I am catching a plane tonight--thinking about the delicate map of your neck. Roaming. 

Mary Jean Chan

Friday, 2 February 2018

An interview with Lucy Hamilton on her book of prose poetry, Stalker

Ian Seed interviews Lucy Hamilton on her first collection of prose poems, Stalker, here:

Friday, 28 July 2017

Sudden Prose Reprints: 'What of the Heart?' by Maria Jastrzębska

From The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingénue

What of the Heart?

Everybody looks below the surface hoping they’ll find some meaning, some remnant of a wreck, cargo of lost gold, if they just look hard enough and deep, when all they need is a glance. It’s enough to brush the surface lightly with a gaze, here, where a fish can jump through air or a bird dive under water, where light breaks and joins itself. Imagine gazing at the green surface of the water. Your face, the trees, mountains and sky are there. One sigh of the wind is all it takes and everything’s gone, face, trees, stone, clouds and you have to wait till it comes back the same way you wait for your pleasure, slippery as a fish, to leap between worlds, out of the water, through air, and back again.

This poem originally appeared in Long Poem Magazine. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Sudden Prose Reprints: 'Gordita' by Maria Jastrzębska

From The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingénue


On a day without any breeze the Commander is strolling across the sleepy square when he hears children chasing a round-faced child – Gordita, Gordita Chocinita they call. He asks the priest who has become his interpreter what it means and on learning it means piggy girl he tells his henchmen to find the child. That afternoon the villagers cannot believe their eyes as the men, having built a huge fire in the centre of the square, hang the child trussed up like an animal over its flames. The child screams. The people plead and shout. The Commander inclines his head and the men fire a round of shots above the crowd to silence them. But it’s you who are responsible for this, he drawls, you are the ones who named her Chocinita in the first place. His voice carries in the stillness like smoke rising lazily on a day without any breeze.

This poem first appeared in Long Poem Magazine.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Green" by Jodie Hollander


Green were the waves on the Zambezi bouncing our rubber raft, close to the sharp cliffs, then far, high out of the water, the waves they called the angry sisters, the washing machine, the raft dipped its nose into the green river, the knowing of skull-clanking rock. First the gasping for a way out from beneath, my hand searching for air, bumping raft, then raft again—then that sinking feeling—the green calm of the heart’s unclutch, green like the ribbons of seaweed waving, locks of a woman’s hair. Green—the pat pat of the last beats before the heart’s submission, then the release—that melody beneath the water, the letting go—that music, green.

Jodie Hollander

Friday, 14 October 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: Em Strang's "Hare"

This compelling prose poem appears in Em Strang's first collection, Bird-Woman, just out from Shearsman Books. 


In Memoriam Jyoti Singh

I'm carrying the hare along the road. One of its back legs is hanging by a single tendon, blood seeping slowly in the cold. It's early morning, but the hare is late. The school bus has taken it by surprise, for the last time. I'm holding it like a newborn baby, one hand beneath its head, the other beneath its backside. It's heavy. It weighs roughly as much as a fully grown, well-fed tomcat. It's the kind of weight I'd prefer to sling over my shoulder.

For some time now, I've been unable to let the images go: the bus in the semi-dark, the young woman and her male friend; the blood on the men's hands and all their wide eyes in the confines of the vehicle; the metal air; the woman's voice which I can hear, again and again, no matter where I look.

The body is still warm and limp, still supple, and I keep half-expecting its eyes to blink, its legs to jerk awake. I half-expect the hare to jump and charge away from me. But it doesn't. I carry it into the woods and put it down beneath a rhododendron bush. I lay it out in such a way that the gashed leg is invisible and it looks, it really looks, as though the hare is wide alive and running. It doesn't matter whether I'm doing this for me or for all hares.

I find a few branches and twigs and make a kind of woody tent over the body. I don't do this for other roadkill, but I've been watching the hares all year – there's a pair. Or there was. They circle the house like sentinels, beginning on the eastern side with the sun and working their way round through the orchard, past the hen-run and into the woods. I watch them through the windows, their black-tipped ears, their long, powerful hind-legs that work like suspension coils, easing the body up and forward, down and forward, perpetually sprung; ready, I supposed, for the unexpected.

By now it's a familiar story. The woman with a young, smiling face and soft skin. Her softness in the last light of the evening. All the shouting men, their mouths, their drenched clothes.

It's a small back road with little traffic, but the school bus passes twice a day and the driver doesn't mean to hit it. He's late and the kids are waiting, out in the cold on a corner of turf.

I stroke its long ears back against its head, stroke its fine coat, white belly, small face. Hares have kinetic skulls – they're jointed – which allows for a degree of movement between the front and back sections. It helps absorb the force of impact as the hare strikes the ground.

The iron bar. The shadow faces. The quiet glistening of the steering wheel, an empty glass bottle, an eye.