To Quote Walt Whitman

by Mick Hugh

 

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Are there pastorals in a pixel?

I’ve heard it said so.

That a perfect moment holds life’s memories…

yet the playback waits for death.

 

No better than the world

in a meek man’s hands:

show me the roses growing naturally in the graveyard,

or a romance with a wick for the years.

 

We can get high enough

if we run the old Buick

with the garage door shut.

 

We can get high

walking the Lincoln Tunnel,

or gasping for breath

from a Newark overpass.

 

A thousand office faces

find their dreams in computer screens,

still glowing when the day shuts its lights.

Wither the aortic valve,

just from a lack of use.

 

Lazy eyeballs,

cataracts,

myopic Coke-bottle glasses.

The smoke-stacks in a Cezanne.

Mesothelioma

in the gold mines of a wedding ring –

are we done yet?

 

Febrile seizures on a death-bed

awaken his famous past:

canyons in the skin

that ran the red of roses.

 

He’d take his books for walks

till his legs got lost,

down by the waterfront,

down Washington Street.

 

The clamor of half-built high-rises,

soot of the tent towns

under the highways:

the fast clacking of sharp shoes on the sidewalks,

a briefcase to withstand the bullets.

 

Strange creatures that lurked down the streets,

mange and tendon and quiet whisper.

The dog with chopped ears

pawed the Plexiglass shell,

and whimpered,

as the clerks and the lawyers brisked past.

 

A daisy grew in a pavement crack.

A daisy grew and the seasons churned

on a playback twice as fast.

Stop.

 

Stuck at a stop in the traffic-thronged street was a truck,

hauling concrete to the next empty lot, being filled.

The driver could barely be heard:

the hum of idling traffic,

the overpasses rumbling above;

 

beneath the sounds of airplane thrust

and the debates of World News Tonight,

the truck driver,

red faced,

barely heard,

shouting out,

“I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass!”

 


Mick Hugh is a writer for Sudden Denouement, and the groundskeeper at Mick’s Neon Fog.


 

Meet Sudden Denouement Collective Member Mick Hugh

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The editors of Sudden Denouement Literary Collective know that our strength is our writers. We hope that you enjoy getting to know them through our new Writer Interview Series.

What name do you write under?

I write under the name Mick Hugh. It’s more a homophone than an actual psuedonym, but I’m stuck working straight-tie jobs for a living and need some anonymity. I already have a hard enough time explaining background-check anomalies.

In what part of the world do you live?  Tell us about it.

An hour west of New York City. From here, 30min west you’re in Appalachia, pitch-black forested hills at night, and 30min east you’re in the gray urban sprawl of howling Essex County. This is an interesting region; though boring, being so inbetween the extremes. Pick-up trucks picking up day-laborers and BMWs driving to corporate parks.

Please tell us about yourself.  

I started writing seriously in college. Spent a summer on an empty campus wandering around writing a novel, dropped out, moved to a different city with a friend, hitchhiked around, then was homeless, wandered back home, fell in love, moved to another city, worked odd-jobs, finished my degree (journalism); am raising a son, working full-time, and dragging my ass out of bed early AM to write in the dark morning’s quiet.

If you have a blog or website, please provide the name and the link.

MicksNeonFog.com

When did you begin your blog/website, and what motivated you start it?

Mick’s Neon Fog is my fourth or fifth blog. I had a journal-blog in college, then a blog about hitchhiking and “urban-camping”, then some other ones, then finally landed a form that fit well. And so stuck with it. They’re poems without stanzas, which might seem lazy, but they’re too cathartic to pay attention to line breaks. That’s my motivation – the blog’s a release valve.

What inspires/motivates you to keep blogging on your site?

The dim hope of someday writing for a living. I can’t think of anything more freeing than not having to take orders from people, and being able to sit and think and write (and of course hitchhiking to book-signings). Though, the blog’s been half-full, on a good week. I started farming poems (actual, stanza’d poems) out to magazines, to see if they’ll turn a penny or an eye. That, and I started a novel again, finally.

When did you join the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective?

November of 2016. I thought Jasper was pulling my leg when he first emailed me.

Why/how did you join Sudden Denouement?

A few weeks after starting Mick’s Neon Fog I got an email from Jasper. I thought he was full of shit. Someone wanted me as a contributor? I was floored. The whole SD community is an excellent thing to be part of. It’s the frontier of literature for the digital age. I joined because that excites the shit out of me.

What does “Divergent Literature” mean to you?

Weirdos who scribble weird poems in weird little dark rooms, valuing messy, raw honesty over the picket-fence poetics that somehow garner national acclaim.

SD Founder Jasper Kerkau frequently talks about Sudden Denouement writers using the ‘secret language’. What is it?

Metaphors. That’s the secret language of every artist. If we leave everything to definitions and boundaries, there’s no freedom. A good metaphor suggests something clear without defining it, sullying it. SD writers, like every good writer, want freedom from something, or everything. As to our specific SD secret language, there’s clearly a lot of overlap in what we’re each trying to break away from.

What are your literary influences?

I’ve a stupid breadth of literary interests. Top of the list for influences, Sylvia Plath and DF Wallace.

Has any of your work been published in print?  (books, literary magazines, etc.) How did that happen?

I came across Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones shortly after bumming around the country. So I wrote a prose-poem about friends taking turns driving with their eyes shut down the highway. That was my first published piece. Then, a short story in Digging Through the Fat (I think that was it), then just SD. I just sent out a crop of poems (yes, with actual stanzas), so hopefully I can add to the list, soon.

Do you have writing goals?  What are they?

I want to write for a living. I don’t want to take orders from people, and I don’t want to give people orders. I want a quiet farm house in PA close enough that I can bum around Philly as I please. And I’d like a Master’s in English. I think it’d be rad to be an English professor smelling of beer and tweed, scribbling madly in the mornings before yelling about Proust to a bunch of stunned Freshmen.

Which pieces of your own writing are your favorites?  Please share a few links.

My favorites are the last 3 poems I’ve finished. I sent them out for money, and so haven’t published them elsewhere. The last few pieces are a big notch of improvement.

What else would like to share about your writing, Sudden Denouement, or yourself?

It’s write or die. It’s life on our own terms or it’s a slow death on our knees. Society determines success by how many people we stand on, and unless the few of us can blaze a road out of this human cluster-fuck, we’re all doomed. Writing is radical. The best writing is a great metaphor that bursts our boundaries. And that’s the only thing that’ll save anyone, bursting out of these dishonest boundaries. I feel like I should end with something hopeful, but I’m really not in the mood. Write on, SD!

 

Excerpt from Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective- Dream catcher never understood the bus schedule/Mick Hugh

The library has been converted into classrooms for fifth-year students. Shelves emptied and rearranged to fit rows of desks, projector screens, faculty offices and the Office of Student Retention. My exam is running late to complete. I am tapping fingers on the desktop nervously rapping away. My feet twitch uncomfortably. I scribble out essays and vague answers to questions I can only half-read. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the time and this afternoon you’re boarding a bus for a move to LA. It’s your mistake; you’re my mistake: I let you mistake me. I’m coming with you. I should. I spring from my desk and let the stapled papers fly apart through the air at the professor’s head. The race is on skip the elevator and dash the stairs, leave the books behind at the counter I’ll come back for them later if they really mean that much to me. I burst out the doors and check the time on my phone – bright fresh sun, and the aluminum numbness creeping deeper in my lower gut; I know I’m going to be late. I hustle across campus and halfway there double-back the other way; in my haste I made the mistake of trying to cut through the campus construction. But all I find in the other direction are new dormitories and expansions under construction for the new Department of Student Retention and I cannot find the god damned parking lot where it used to be.

Out of breath sucking wind through the sweat and jello’d legs, the aluminum numbness has crept up and blossomed into wilting fireworks of frustration and shame – standing alone on the curb sucking wind, just in time to see the bus trail away. Just a moment too late.

Dream catcher, forever just a moment too late.

I’ve awoken at a desk. Lifeless fluorescent lighting and drool puddled by the keyboard. The office is a warm fuzz of processors and clacking keyboards. Assignments due before the evening commute home, and three hours wasted in a sleep-haze fading out and in, out and in – lonely headlights passing through fog of an empty exurban town. I am standing at dusk at the bus stop with an aluminum numbness curdling my gut. I don’t know the time. But I don’t know the time. There was something I missed, and it still runs unleashed from my grip, ten years now past my prime. I don’t know if the bus is late or if I missed its final run for the day. I may not be home tonight. I may not ever be home again

in time to pay our taxes, or to consolidate our student debt.

Or to find a house to live in,

to keep us off the street.

In time to see the kids grow up,

or in time to grow old with you,

I can’t come home again. Ten years of shame and pain puts no hope to death by stone. Alone, and ripped at the heart, I will sit on this bus stop bench and wait for the late-night bus ride back to the dreams that could’ve been.

Available at Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other major book retailers


[Mick Hugh is the creator of Mick’s Neon Fog. And an all-around bad ass.]

Modern Heat- Mick Hugh

What are these ghosts that hide in our dreams? The smiling beasts that stick in the shadows while we sleep? A bed sopping sweat in August heat, fuse blown, waking up to hangovers in the middle of the night. Reach for the bedside reservoirs of Excedrin. Reach for the bottles of water beneath the mattress, reach for the joint half-spent in the ashtray. Pace the living-room, pace the kitchen. What are you doing here? This city has us in its grinder. What are we doing here? Looking for dimes on the sidewalks, tallying our dollars and paying student debts to the bar. We’ve lost interest in the good life, ferris wheel of office jobs and part-time gigs. Counting days to eviction, reading beatniks by candlelight, fucking ourselves raw flushed with wine and the ache that everything spent is never fully paid for: smiles full of good teeth, bank tellers who don’t post Closed signs when we’re next in line, maybe a home we can have a dog in. The simple things: to forsake the verdant lust of the jungles, the rush of air into the mouths of caves buried for endless ages in the nights of our cities; like every fool to tell ourselves the horizons are forbidden, to enjoy such simple assurances against inevitable death: a blender, a functioning television, prime-time dramas and a car with four tires. Hide me in your bosom: we feel safest naked and wrapped in the sweat of our quickest moments. Liquor bottles in the cabinets, liquor bottles in the freezer. Short memories of verbal abuse in the sweltering third-floor apartment, cancellation notices tacked to the walls. Grab your purse, doll, we’re going to the bar. We’re going to the bar to drink until the earth becomes what it is, fleeting and vague and full of promises we can only keep to our hearts. We’ll see the faces in the stars and the beauty of strange conversations, beauty of transients we meet in the streets. And when we’re done and have had our fill, to sleep heavily and pleasantly in the flea-infested bed we share, soaked with sweat, August heat, and the crushing teeth of this god-damned city of fear.


Mick Hugh is a writer for Sudden Denouement, and the groundskeeper at Mick’s Neon Fog.

Proper Disturbia – Mick Hugh

Endstation Sehnsucht / Streetcar Named Desire, A

I’ve again picked the wrong major, ten minutes into the second class I can already tell that – this isn’t the scene for me. Black cashmere, Eddie Bauer plaids; retro Doc Martens, soft spoken emotions: your poetry better enunciate pulpy vulnerabilities. The Professor has asked me to share my thoughts and my diaphragm spasms a smile. I am trying not to laugh. Because what I’ve written down is absurd and too honest to be expected, my thoughts here transcribed for our homework assignment. My thoughts on Tennessee Williams’, A Streetcar Named Desire. The room is silent and serious in its all-ears respect of my turn to speak. I am having a hard time not laughing. I compose myself. I begin to read.

“A Streetcar revolves around the personal absurdities of three individuals forced to live in close quarters. The main protagonist, Blanche, is [silent laugh] definitely a lunatic.” I bite my tongue, deep breath quivering stifled laughter. They are expecting something serious, intellectual, insightful [inward laugh]. I sigh and compose myself, begin again.

“The reason we find this drama an authentic representation of human life [pause to suppress laughter] each character is defined by contradictions,” which reminds me of the absurdity at the bottom of the page [face twists to hold in laughter]. BIG BOLD phrases towards the bottom of the page. Breathe, clear my head, begin again.

“The entire drama is founded on the dichotomies of social stratification, intra-personal relationships, and psychological,” [laughter, uncontrollable childish laughter shaking my body]. I am screaming, roaring red-faced boisterous laughter. I am being stared at, glared at, all the more to laugh at the unexpectedness and disapproval of this laughter I’ve kept bottled.

“I’m sorry [laughter, tears-on-my-face laughter]. I’m sorry I can’t [indomitable laughter]. I can’t help it!” Why so serious? Hahaha! Hahaha!

“Mr. – ” starts the professor. “If you have to excuse yourself – ”

I collect my books and notebooks into a pile on my desk, peals of laughter coming to a rest: I feel now almost blissful from being caught in this cataract of unyielding laughter. I think – they have no idea what I find so funny and this laughing so flies in the face of expected decorum that it’s –

Tremors in my diaphragm I begin to laugh again. My head bangs back, bright clouds of laughter to the ceiling frame a word bubble: “He blew his head off! [laughter like bursts of flak] Her husband! She was this [laughter] precious Southern Belle [laughter] inadvertently [laughter] she inadvertently made him [laughter] blow his fucking head off!” [laughterlaughterlaughterlaughter].

I am no longer taking English 106.

We hope you enjoyed this classic piece of writing from the Sudden Denouement archive.


Mick Hugh is a writer for Sudden Denouement, and the groundskeeper at Mick’s Neon Fog.

 

Glow-in-the-dark Annuals – Mick Hugh

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Glow-in-the-dark Annuals – Mick Hugh (Mick’s Neon Fog)

You were sitting outside the bar on the patio, picking petals from the daisies in the planter on the railing. I was seated at a separate table nearby, because you had asked me to find another seat. We weren’t speaking for the moment: the conversation had been high-tide with an undercurrent I was too stupid to avoid. I told the waiter I was buying your drinks, and had him fill the table with rum-and-cokes until finally he said Enough; my credit card had been declined. Last week we had left for a festival, driven an hour outside of town, just for you to decide you no longer wanted to go. I turned the radio loud to drown you out and you opened your door and I skidded to a stop on Route 70. You got out. And of course I turned around half-an-hour later and found you pouting in the dust the tractor-trailers kick up along the shoulder. We didn’t speak, but we weren’t angry. I had a difficult time being angry — we met when you were picking sunflowers in the park, and when I finally caught your eye you had irises as thin as mine. Your skin was as thin as mine, and it only took us a matter of minutes to shed our skin and expose the blood vessels that bubbled the beauty into our lives. The little pinches of flesh on your arms and the nape of your neck, soft as dawn and golden. You could sing like Janis Joplin and illustrate the poetry of the pouring rain, and when I reached inside of you I found home and the hillsides I’d dreamt of roaming as a kid. Your mother was a hippy, your father itinerant. We had everything in common in a box of mismatched shoes. And when I held your hand I had looked inside, and saw a little black star in a palm full of rising light. I admit, I was immensely drawn and intrigued. There was nothing for us in this timeline. I bought a trailer on the edge of the city because you were the first I could tell myself I loved. You let it last for four beautiful months. Yet I had seen the timeline. I had seen the fistfights and the holes in the wall and I wasn’t surprised to witness my fears come to life. But what I wanted more than ever was to crawl inside of you. There was a beauty there, and even deeper, something darker true. By summer you came and went as you pleased. Days gone to god knows where, cryptic text messages from the shadows of dawn. I ripped apart your nostalgic doll and left you no choice but to sleep in my car. Cry out your eyes and let me find the reason why I could ever be so stupid. Drink myself into a stupor, you drove me to it. Every night for a week listing names of my friends and every little thing you did with them.
But then again, I knew both of your parents were dead — still, I needed to see the blackened centers of the sunflowers.

[Mick Hugh is a writer/editor for Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Sudden Denouement Publishing.  He is the creator of Mick’s Neon Fog.]