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.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "With the Boy, in the Box" by Jennifer Kronovet

With the Boy, in the Box

I drag the boy along the shore in a box, a boy-box, a not-box. I pause to speech-draft us a word-ship, a ship-box, a ship, and I try to leave spaces for weather, we-weather. I leave spaces that are high, highly visible for us to move into as we grow culture with our box-myth: a box can be a word can be a ship can be the blank that takes us to each other.

Jennifer Kronovet
Case Study: With (above/ground, 2015)

Information about how to purchase the chapbook directly from the publisher ($6 CAD for out-of-Canada orders, including shipping) are available here. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "With the Boy, Inside the Museum" by Jennifer Kronovet

With the Boy, Inside the Museum

A painting of horses charging in a war. The war is subtle but the horses aren’t. Nouns, for the boy, live in the sounds nouns make. We don’t hear the horses, but the boy makes us. Our war is silent as horseflesh armoring distance. The boy’s future war makes a sound. We imitate that sound by accident.

Jennifer Kronovet
Case Study: With (above/ground, 2015)

Friday, 1 July 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Father Tongue" by Jennifer Kronovet

Father Tongue

Each issue of Blade Magazine describes a man and how he came to be a person of knives. There are veins of metal in rock and in a family and in one person’s diorama. Some is mined for weaponry, some for language. Some knives are photographed like ladies in a nudy magazine, hovering above place without a human to hold them. Their blades are reflectionless like the back of my mind when I look. Blade at the dining room table, in the bathroom, on the couch, throughout my striated landscape leading to leaving.

The language of knives includes: quenching, hilt, damascus, hollow ground, skeleton handle, balisong. “Song of Myself” has: loveroot, souse, killing-clothes, chant of dilation, fallen architecture. Whitman was too late to sow me as an orchard for harvesting the hybrid fruits of our thinking. I had held my father’s knives and could feel how they fit him, and he was multitudes to me by being different from himself. Whitman was merely me, but different. I am still waiting for my mind to fit a language the way a knife can fit my hand. I want to wield both together to cut my past down, the opposite of screaming.

Jennifer Kronovet
Case Study: With (above/ground, 2015)

Friday, 24 June 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: Jennifer Kronovet's "With the Boy, Outside"

I was very impressed with Jennifer Kronovet's chapbook, Case Study: With: this is the first of four prose poems I'll be reprinting. Thanks to Jennifer for permission and to her publisher, rob mclennan, for bringing her work to my attention.

With the Boy, Outside

Twigs collect by the side of the path. Wild flowers space themselves. Pigeons respond instantly to being chased. If I look through the boy—to loss, to a future, to else—nothing is enough to hold the ground into one place. This is your foot, I say. But people don’t talk like that. I watch people gather their faces into thoughts I can’t hear. This is the space between us, I say waving my hands to make the distance.

Jennifer Kronovet
Case Study: With (above/ground, 2015)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: Sarah Burgoyne's "The Basket Waltz"

The Basket Waltz

It was around that time of year when everyone decides to take their chances. The baker transformed into a cut of meat, and the funeral was solemn, the casket oddly-shaped. We hadn't learned any better, but then again, there was no one there to teach us. Asleep in the wild country, we watched the moths go up in flame.

Lay me down, prophets, and let me watch you read into things. It only took a couple of years to learn that the oracle can be sometimes wrong. One day, I taught her how to French braid her hair and from then on, braids became powerful symbols of widows. She told her secrets only to the dog, and when she died, the dog ran off into the woods, taking our bones with him.

When my daughter returns as an old woman, she’ll take up country singing. I’ll take up lodging in a nearby tree next to several spiders. We’ll spend our last days comparing webs, though I never will feel at the centre of mine. When my daughter passes, I’ll spin each note of "Walkin' After Midnight" into perfect white skeins of yarn.

Sarah Burgoyne
A Precarious Life on the Sea
above/ground press, 2016

To order a copy of A Precarious Life on the Sea, send cheques ($4 CAD, with $2 additional for postage outside Canada) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Friday, 10 June 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Rain" by Julia Webb


Daddy said that the FLOODS were coming and we believed him − it rained for days and we didn’t go out. Alice was grumpy because the holidays were being wasted but I didn’t mind I LIKE staying indoors. I decided to get everything out of the cupboard in our room. First I found NOAH’S ARK and lined up all the animals, but some of them wouldn’t stand up because they had broken legs. Next I played with Tiny Tears, but she couldn’t cry anymore. Then I tried to draw an Ark on the Etch-a- sketch but I couldn’t make the sides straight so I gave up and decided to find all my cuddly animals and get them ready for the REAL ARK. At dinner time on the fifth day of rain Daddy said that ALL THE SINNERS IN THE WORLD WOULD DROWN AND GOOD RIDDANCE, and I held Easter Bunny tight between my knees so he knew I would save him, and so that Daddy would not make me take him back upstairs because WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TOYS AT THE TABLE. That night I had a nightmare about water coming in the window and I woke up screaming. Mama said to Daddy NOW look what you’ve done! And she gave me a glass of milk and a biscuit even though we aren’t allowed to eat in bed. I saved the biscuit under my pillow because there won’t be much food on the Ark. When they had gone I couldn’t get back to sleep − I was too busy remembering all the BAD THINGS that I had done like writing POO in the back of a school book, and I decided that I would have to build MY OWN ARK in case Daddy couldn’t save me. I must have fallen asleep praying because the next minute the SUN was shining and Alice was bouncing on my bed saying Get up Lazy Bones the rain’s gone, and Mama says if we clear up we can go to the shops! And I knew that my prayers HAD been answered, and that I should try hard not to sin anymore. But I DID want some sweets, and as Mama says I AM ONLY A CHILD, so I kicked the mess under Alice’s bed, and wondered whether Daddy would buy me a new Tiny Tears if I accidently broke her arm off, because if I’m not going to die yet I WOULD like a doll who can REALLY CRY!

Julia Webb
Bird Sisters (Nine Arches, 2016)

Friday, 3 June 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "The Piano Lesson" by Julia Webb

The Piano Lesson

When I asked Daddy if I could learn the piano, he said NO because MUSIC IS THE DEVIL’S WORK. When Daddy was away doing GOD’S WORK Mama took us to visit the end-of- the-row neighbours. They are secret friends because they are BAPTISTS. They have our house back-to- front and a real live piano which sometimes I am allowed to play. Steve taught me COCKLES AND MUSSELS ALIVE ALIVE-O and in bed that night I sang the song to Alice. I was just getting to the good bit about the GHOST when Daddy banged in shouting STOP THAT NOISE, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT DUBLIN IS FULL OF HEATHENS AND PAPISTS? I didn’t know what a papist was, but I asked Daddy is Molly Malone a Papist? which made Alice snort with laughter. Daddy didn’t answer; he just slammed out again muttering about Papists and the devil. I hummed Cockles and Mussels under my breath until I fell asleep, and that night I dreamt that I was Molly Malone and my barrow looked a lot like a piano but with limpets stuck all over it like the rocks on the beach at the Sunday School outing.

Julia Webb
Bird Sisters (Nine Arches, 2016)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Dear B" by Jennifer Militello

Dear B,

I knew it was a vision when I was killed and from my wound grew water. I knew it from the way my age gained speed. I was lost inside a place that looked familiar. A small moss at the altar. A splinter where I touched. When I went to find winter, I was born of the salt, I could only see my hands, I grew winded. I could only see my wrists. I grew like a forest, I knew me by my roots. I was on my knees and crying to be born. There was a gospel in my blood. Some things are impossible: I had already been sold to the world. Still there was a mystery, winter did not come. The way my pupils responded spoke volumes: they decided a window was a way of singing when they tried mixing laughter with a catastrophe of light. By listening, I was finally invented. I was the dog’s long voice, buying back the evening’s rattled coat of wings. I realized I was made of winter, and the will to carry on.

Jennifer Militello
A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments (Tupelo, 2016)

In the UK, you can purchase A Camouflage from Alibris here.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Conspiracy to Commit Larceny" by Jennifer Militello

Conspiracy to Commit Larceny

She she she—at the crux of what hurts—(the police came)—thin hospital sheets—(the air in my lungs exhaling)—(their flashlights searched along the dirt for the criminal)—(I was up against the car)—(they were gathering my glances)—the hospital room and her unclean body—(they were collecting my wildflower looks)—my memories as I said them—(in my mouth)—(their voices without bodies)—legs could not support her weight—(I was the criminal)—(they said as much)—what she perceived—(the darkness of woods and a small circle of headlights)—she reached for me—she told me they had left her outside the hospital doors—(I am all by myself)—I pull her socks from her feet—her feet are stones—my temples throb—(the policeman hears them)—(he puts me in a cell)—(he puts me behind the thick glass)—(he carves my name into the ink)—(he carves my name toward the hospital’s room)—the nurses turn her body to clean her after she vomits—her pale thigh—her marbled skin—her inability—(I am handcuffed)—(my fingertips are stained with ink)—(I have my identity)—the hallway smells like trying to keep alive—this geriatric wing—unfolds from my body like a—(flashlight dying)—bulb drifting—(false battery)—the window out to the river—a slowing barge—(I dream of guilt)—(they take my shoes)—(they take my belt)—she takes my hand and tells me—speak—(I sign the paper that speaks for me)—(they read me my rights)—(they speak for me)—a sad green room—I see myself in the mirror—(they see me in from the other side of me)—(they read me the law)—as I read she sleeps—as I read I feed her something that makes her sick—(I roll from bed)—the thin sheets—the bulletproof river—(its bulletproof glass)—(my voice buttoned to one side of it)—she reads my look—I tell her—(the policeman takes my arm and makes me) look—criminal—and finds my wound and touches it—tests it with an open flame—it changes color in me—it is not mine—she is waiting—her feet are cold no matter what I do—and bloodless—(this place is unable to reason)—(unstained)—I rest my eyes—I am surrounded—(there is nowhere that is not this scene)—last glance at days that end—(they put me in the car)—(they call in my name)—her name above the bed is ending as I speak—I carve my name into the scene—(my hospital is not believing)—is my hope—my heart stopping when I see the moments—(the policemen say what I mean)—(and I am clean)—(despite the act)—(the theft)—the rain—(the last attachment they make to me)—(guilt)—in a world betrayed—by flesh—

Jennifer Militello
A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments (Tupelo, 2016)

Friday, 13 May 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "In a Word, a World" by C.D. Wright

Many thanks to Forrest Gander for allowing me to reprint the opening poem of C.D. Wright's last collection.

In a Word, a World

I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satchelful can land you a job, a well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate a stampede, and therefore can be formally outlawed--even by a liberal court bent on defending a constitution guaranteeing unimpeded utterance. I love that the Argentine gaucho has over two hundred words for the coloration of horses and the Sami language of Scandinavia has over a thousand words for reindeer based on age, sex, appearance--e.g., a busat has big balls or only one big ball. More than the pristine, I love the filthy ones for their descriptive talent as well as transgressive nature. I love the dirty ones more than the minced, in that I respect extravagant expression more than reserved. I admire reserve, especially when taken to an ascetic nth. I love the particular lexicons of particular occupations. The substrate of those activities. The nomenclatures within nomenclatures. I am of the unaccredited school that believes animals did not exist until Adam assigned them names. My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.

C.D. Wright
The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

"The Find"

Today my flash fiction, "The Find," appears at Ink, Sweat & Tears. I expect other poets will identify with the general situation....

Friday, 15 April 2016

Sudden Prose Reprints: "A Story about the Orgasm" by Nin Andrews

I read this poem in the latest issue of jubilat and was delighted when Nin Andrews gave me permission to reprint it here. Read more about her and her work on her website here

A Story about the Orgasm

after Robert Hass

A young orgasm joined an artist colony, thinking he might want to be an author, but instead of writing, he watched a certain woman all summer long. She was Vietnamese, a poet, almost fifty, and the more he watched her, the more he wanted her. He wanted her like a seeker wants God, like the starving want bread with butter and a pot of warm tea. It was how she moved him with her thoughts that drew him, how, when she stared at the ceiling, clouds moved through her mind along with biscuits and summer rain and dreams. He wanted to ask her questions. He wanted to answer her with his own tongue, if only he could form words like hers. One night when the woman was preparing for bed, wearing nothing but a men’s large tee shirt, her pale legs bathed in moonlight, she felt his presence. She addressed him directly. I think you have been watching me, she said.  I think you want to have me, not just once, but night after night.  She was that kind of woman. She spoke her mind. She knew the difference between an orgasm who lusts and one who loves. But then she said, I’m sorry. I have lost my desire. It left with my lovers. I had three, but they abandoned me soon after I had a double mastectomy. Lifting her shirt, she showed him the space in her chest where her breasts once were. She expected him to look down or away, to apologize and leave as the others had. But instead the orgasm ran his fingers across her slender scars, tracing her pain with awe. For it is the scars of humans that attract the orgasm.  Such beautiful pain, the orgasm sighed before he stroked her neck, her lips, her thighs. All night he held her while she wept. The morning after, the woman felt as if she had bathed for the first time in years. A warm   glow filled her chest and belly and between her legs. She felt so calm then, poems flowed from her pen. Swallows came to her window and sang to her as if she were one of them.