Friday, 28 December 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Inside the Yellow Dress (1)" by Mary Ann Samyn

Inside the Yellow Dress (1)

          --It got worse and worse until I couldn't put two words together: for example, pony tail, each part rearing up, wanting to be the main thing. But the main thing was the ribbon, which I wanted but didn't mention for fear of angering the other words. Also the scissors, which lay on the dresser, admiring themselves in the mirror. I better not became my theme. As in childhood, when I was easily bribed by a little candy: the slightest nod or lemon drop.

Mary Ann Samyn
Inside the Yellow Dress
New Issues, 2001

Friday, 21 December 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "New Neighbours" by Ian Seed

New Neighbours

Three men moved into the flat on the other side of the landing. They seemed a friendly bunch and would always greet me with smiles and loud helloes when we squeezed by one another on the narrow staircase. One of the three men was divorced and had a small daughter who would come to visit him. At first it seemed that the father and daughter had a special relationship. I could hear her calling ‘Daddy’ excitedly and his voice responding in warm, yet measured tones. I would watch through the window as she ran round the small lawn at the back and he stood there smiling proudly in his rolled-up shirtsleeves. But over the weeks I noticed his voice becoming harsher and more impatient. When he wanted her to come back into the house, he would take her hand and tug it roughly. I began to wonder if he was abusing her. It was as if he could sense my suspicions, for he would glare at me and say nothing whenever our paths crossed. Now the three men would shove by me on the stairs. They were always laughing at some joke that only they understood, but which I was sure was obscene.

Ian Seed

Ian Seed is editor of Publications include Sleeping with the Ice Cream Vendor (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2012), Threadbare Fables (where "New Neighbours" first appeared; Like This Press, 2012), Shifting Registers (Shearsman, 2011), and a translation from the Italian of Ivano Fermini, the straw which comes apart (Oystercatcher Press, 2010). He is currently working on a full-length collection of prose poems.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Friday, 14 December 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Somerset Letters 5 by Frances Presley


Unpruned prunus.  The banging of doors, his.  Let’s not have too many of these frills.  Soon I will fold up my mother’s clothes and take them to the Red Cross shop, where, in February, she sent me with clothes that were not good enough for the bring and buy. More than nine inches of rain fell during the 24 hours following the evening of 15 August 1952, one of the heaviest rainfalls ever recorded in the British Isles.  Mrs Ellen Jenkins grasped Dilys’ hand and nightdress so hard in order to retain her hold on her daughter that her hand remained clenched for three days afterwards: Harriet Bridle. That series of abstract paintings is just exactly the clouds above the estuary until a seagull gets in the way on the sea wall, which must be a relief for the readers, as they have got it entirely.  Someone asks which are the clouds and which is the sea, and obviously the sea is up there and the clouds are down there.  They are so neatly folded that there is nothing to fold up, nothing at all, only things to take out of her handbags.  She kept everything.  Holland after the war.  All the old pens.  I am not really moving these objects around like a chess game, because then I would know their identities.  They have increased the land drainage level to allow for the flooding, and the Sedgemoor beef farmer lost 40 acres in the summer.  He thinks that without hunting we lose touch with ourselves, with nature, and our place in the food chain.  The new type of jig saw puzzle is a three dimensional mansion.  He’s been up there all day in his room with it and he’s got as far as the first floor.  The speed of discussion on the net is always a problem, but more than that is the anxiety that not enough has been said.  Perhaps it is better to go away and think about it, and remember this crossroads and a place to pick whortleberries.  A gorse bush had fallen across the narrow cliff path, and it was difficult to climb round it.  On the second day it was still there and I pushed hard on its prickly thick stem until the root shifted in the soft wet earth, and it stayed against the bank and did not whip back.  There was a pervading smell of earth and the lightning revealed 40 foot walls of silt. My father wants me to write in the memorial book and I resist and think only of clich├ęs, who loved these woods.  But I imagined my mother seeing these oaks, and say that I will write something 'poetic and original' and he is glad that someone will.  He praises her calligraphy and she says that the entry can be as long as we like.  Those are the scars that were her eyes, on the tall slim trunks of the silver birches, up into a blue sky.  Always prune the rose bush so that the eyes are facing outwards.  The paintings are called 'Broken horizons: shattered dreams', but I think that she liked the yellow in it. 

Somerset Letters was originally published as a book by Oasis Books in 2002, with selections, including this one, later included in Paravane: New and Selected Poems 1996-2003 (Salt, 2004). Presley's last two books were published by Shearsman; to learn more about her and her work and read selections, please see her Shearsman author page here

Friday, 7 December 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Like Owls" by Tania Hershman

"Like Owls"

Someone died. That was the whisper down the line. The line, that stretched, that snaked, that wound. Someone died, they hissed, pass it on. And we did, we bent towards our neighbour, our hot breath in their ear. Who, who, who? Like owls, the sounds came back. Who died, who died, who died? But nothing was returned, and no-one could see, no-one could see the front, although every day we shuffled some, we moved one foot and maybe the other. We hoped, we hoped and hoped, we clutched our numbers, shuffling.

Inside our heads we wondered if we were it, the dead, the expired. Perhaps we had all passed on but why the shuffling then? If we were dead, we thought, we'd rest. If we were dead we'd lie around all day, in sunshine if it still existed. Lucky dead, we thought, lucky not to have to queue, to eat, or breathe, or sigh or sweat, or love or curse. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

The next day and the next, we stood, we inched, we stood. And then: a runner. A runner streaking, from behind straight up, towards the head, the start, the finish! Go go go go, we cried, clutching our numbers, our shuffling feet thrilled to the chase, thrilled to the bravery. Go go go go go! The runner vanished, far far ahead, and we strained to hear, to hear some cheers, some acts, some violence, some thing. But no, the runner's run was done. Bones broken, came the whisper, hissed from one ear to the next. Truncheons, batons, zappers, chains and stern commands. The runner won't be running now, or ever, and we giggled, laughed and cackled, foolish runner, stupid stupid stupid, no not brave, not brave. Queue we must and queue we did, no breaking free, no gaining ground.

Someone died. That was the whisper down the line. Who who who? Like owls, the sound came back. 

Tania Hershman is the author of two story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), a collection of 56 very short fictions, and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008; commended, 2009 Orange Award for New Writers). Tania's short stories and poetry are published or forthcoming in, among others, Five Dials, Stinging Fly, Tears in the Fence, PANK magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, the London Magazine, and New Scientist, and on BBC Radio. She is writer-in-residence in Bristol University's Science Faculty and editor of The Short Review.