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)