Aakriti Kuntal “A Conversation with Death”

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A Conversation with Death

What has skipped
this levitating chest?

The bone hangs like a mantle in midair

You come and collect
the smell of sleep from my mouth,
my anesthetized mouth

You come
over and over

You come,
rowing across white seas

You come and rest in my mouth
The lovely sound of crows conversing

Nobody understands this,
Nobody understands this love,
this endless devotion of yours

But you come,
you come anyway,
You come and lick the whiff of my floating mouth
You eat and glow inside it

You glow, you glow
Together we hook the sky
and play with it in our laps

Together, we make the earth
swim between our lazy feet

Together, we growl
and pounce

Nobody understands this,
this affection of yours

for me
You, from beyond life,
from the rim of death

You, that only travel in lightyears,
Come for me

I,
feeble bone resting on time’s ailing forehead

Bio: Aakriti Kuntal, aged 26, is a poet and writer from Gurugram, India. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Selcouth Station, RASPUTIN: A Poetry Thread, The Hindu, Madras Courier, Blue Nib, and Visual Verse among others. She was awarded the Reuel International Prize 2017 for poetry and was a finalist for the RL Poetry Award 2018.

Guest Writer: Able Elba

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[Photo: Able Elba]
Pulchritudinous Decline
Able Elba, 2018
 

And as the years fade,
fleshy encounters
with folds of listening and not being heard
creep up and frighten from behind walls and doors.
Pulchritudinous sags – crags – puckers –
a map of memories to cherish
and those I hope have the decency to stay behind
when I go.
[Writing began at fourteen, therapy after the loss of my father. Now, approaching thirty I extend a piece of my soul for the world to hold and do with what it likes. Seven years of art, music and writing education and here we are– further from the beginning with the penetrating recognition of how fast it has all gone by. Living is a burden and exquisite– all of which, I sieve through the arts. –Able Elba]
Her writings, art, and music can be found on her site: Able Elba

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: All Caps, No Spaces – Wes Trexler

All Caps No spaces
You’re completely disoriented as you run down the steps of the courthouse in Downtown Manhattan. This isn’t exactly your neighborhood, and it’s hard to get your bearings straight at first, but you know you have to move fast and catch a train soon, any train headed Uptown, so you move as quick as you can in dress shoes minus the laces.
Within a couple blocks you spot the green globes of a Metro tunnel, and head for the station at Foley Square.
On the platform you grow anxious. You were just sprung from Central Booking about fifteen minutes ago, and you’re humming with pent-up energy. You repeat some details in your head, memorizing acronym-encrypted chunks of vital intel.
“ROR…released on recognizance…three misdemeanors. Franklin Seigel from the NLG…you were sprung by Frank Seigel, CUNY Law professor…no, respected CUNY Law professor.”
You didn’t sleep at all in holding, so now, in a quasi-hypnogogic state, your head spins, leaning back on the plastic seat of the subway. You’re worried about things at home, but you can’t call ahead because they confiscated your phone. To stay grounded, you keep at it with the details, cataloguing facts and codifying the official scene for future recall.
Things you know: It’s Saturday. You’ve been released after about twenty hours in various kinds of NYPD lockup. You were arrested on your birthday. Yesterday was 11-11-11. You turned 33 years old on 11-11-11, and you got arrested for organizing a prayer circle in Central Park.
Old enough to know better, you think.
Now it’s nine PM, and you’ve gotta make it back to Brooklyn to host a loft party—a little punk benefit show you put together to buy socks and gloves for the people at Zuccotti.
On the L train you daydream about the last few hours, try to remember your own words so you can repeat them verbatim later.
You see yourself in the cell, jumping up when your name is finally called, stepping through the sliding barred-door into the narrow hall between cages where they shackle you to a chain with about a dozen other dudes. This is your last chance.
Loud and steady, for everyone up and down the hall to hear, you say, “The global class struggle has begun. Don’t be on the wrong side of revolution, people. I urge each and every one of you, when you get back on the outside, do whatever you can to resist, resist, resist.”
You’re not being at all ironic, and no one thinks you are, so you get some positive grumbling, a lot of head nods, one power-fist and one heckler.
Good enough, you think.
The Corrections Officer leads you through the maze of bare tunnels toward arraignment. When you get to a spiral stairway he hollers to the other guards, “Got ten bodies comin’ up the stairs.” He yells it dull and sterile like someone working the mic at Burger King.
“You got ten human beings,” you yell, to no one, and to everyone.
The officer pretends to ignore you. You are officially someone else’s problem now.
Again, you run. As soon as the L train lets off at the Montrose stop you book it to the loft. It feels good to run in the night, to stretch your legs as you move down the street past the Projects. You’re worried about the loft party, hoping GI Dave or one of the Yankou brothers took charge when they heard you got locked up. Hopefully someone found a good PA to use. Hopefully you’ll have no problem getting in the front door with no keys and no phone.
After three blocks you turn the corner onto McKibbin, and you can see from here a small gaggle of Westchester White-guilt punks hovering by the front entrance.
You’re right on time.
Once you’re home, things move fast. There’s a mild hero’s welcome from everyone at hand, but you just wanna know if Gloria’s there. She’s not. Nobody can tell you where she is. This infuriates you to no end, but you don’t let it show. You try not to, at least.
Gloria. The real one. The one Van Morrison’s always croaking about. The girl everyone thinks of as your ex-wife. The firecracker everyone thinks of as your ex-wife.
She’s the singer in your band. Her flight leaves in the morning. She’s giving up on New York, or running away, or taking a break or something. Everything she owns is piled up unpacked under your plywood loft bed, and scattered all around on the dirty floor.
People start showing up—teenage musicians with gear, listless scenesters and unfamiliar kids in skinny-jeans—then, Gloria’s all-time favorite NYC noise/art band TURBO-SLEAZE—all caps, no spaces—load in a trailer-worth of speaker cabs and amps, sprawling a pile of mic-stands and XLR cables across the stage in the living-room. Competent people are doing necessary things so you retreat to your bedroom and try to prepare for the show.
There’s acid. There’s cocaine. No, there’s no cocaine, but you call Ghetto-J down the street and he delivers. You share with no one and brood, make up malicious scenarios about where she might be, what she’s doing and why she’s late while you tattoo your little mirror with a razor blade.
The loft fills up with commotion and body-heat ‘til you can’t hardly stand it.
Out of frustration you start cramming her suitcases and bags with stripper clothes, bras and homemade dresses, clearing a path from the door to your desk.
You are about to vacate, to run sweating down the stairs for some fresh filthy air, when Gloria suddenly rolls in smiling, overstuffed bags bulging in each hand. She plops them down in the middle of the floor and gives you a soul hug. Tells you how proud she is.
The doom evaporates with the sound of her bags touching down, and you are right back to fighting-weight in an instant.
You share some with her. Tell her things about the arrest and about the prayer circle. You both laugh and get excited.
The drummer shows up. Bands play.
Soon, too soon, you’re on stage, strapped into the Flying V. All the pedals and cables give you some trouble at first, but you pull it together just in time. And by the first hook of the first song it’s perfect. Even with the untested virgin replacement drummer the sound is huge in the tiny loft. Gloria’s singing her guts out, and you know it’s right.
A bold smile crawls across your face as you tilt your head way back, trying to keep the snot and blow from dripping onto your lips. You start laughing, but try hard not to lose it in the afterglow of pure comedy. Two weeks ago you were still employed, working nine-to-five, running a fashion blog and writing PR in Midtown. That wasn’t possibly real.
All around you are friends and friendly strangers. Your producer and his wife are here. The other two dudes you were arrested with walk in and get high-fives from your roommates. “The Central Park Three,” you think, mythologizing in real-time. Half of the SLEAZE stand gyrating front and center. Random suburban high-schoolers get drunk or stoned at their first ever Brooklyn loft party. Even Ghetto-J comes back to check out the show for a minute.
When you and Gloria sing together on the chorus, you feel it for sure. This is what you’re after, what you’ve always been after: Freedom—or something very much like it. There’s no going back. From now on, until you end, you’ll live in breathless pursuit of this sensation, stalking these proximations of unfettered liberty at whatever cost, bound by nothing—ever again—but the audacity of your own will.

Wes Trexler is an American writer and filmmaker based out of New York City. Recent stories have appeared in the Wisconsin Review, Willow Springs, Story|Houston and elsewhere. Several others have appeared in the Rag Literary Review, including one which was awarded their fiction prize in 2015. Mr. Trexler was born in West Virginia. He studied at Eastern Washington University and attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers workshop in 2005. He plays clarinet.

Requiem in Red- Aurora Phoenix

 

she etched an elegy

 

for herself

 

in her arm.

 

\it was not that she wished she were dead,

 

it was that in her heart, she already was\

 

with each draw of the blade

 

she eased mournful notes

 

skillful as a virtuoso violinist

 

from her love-starved skin.

 

this one, scratched doleful in minor D

 

laments a childhood forlorn

 

lost in the tumbleweeds

 

of mother’s hypodermic windstorm.

 

tentative lacerations mimic

 

the rent fabric of comfort

 

in which she was never swaddled.

 

that one, carved in hesitant desperation

 

released a cacophony of hushed howls

 

an orchestra of screeching duduks

 

protesting the predators’ parade

 

that prowled unguarded through her dreams

 

         day and night. –

 

cuts, breaking your heart if not

 

her parched and thirsting skin

 

berate the moon and sun

 

who sheltered her not, while each

 

beseeches the silent heavens

 

“was I not worthy of protection?”

 

 

 

she proffers her arm, bared

 

         as her anguish –

 

this belligerently fragile woman – child

 

as eloquent a threnody

 

as Bacon ever painted

 

\triptych over tendons\

 

her practiced insouciance

 

imploring you to care.

 

 

 

yes, assert your eyes

 

weary of caustic consternation

 

I will listen to your tales

 

\of hades and his dethroning\

 

 

 

you sketch her a thesaurus

 

lilting bagpipe harmony

 

reveille!  immutability

 


Aurora Phoenix is a wordsmithing oxymoron. Staid suburbanite cloaks a badass warrior wielding weapon grade phrases. Read more of her confabulations at Insights from “Inside.”

Sudden Denouement Presents: The Thief and the Architect at Notsuoh

Amazing performance by The Thief and the Architect at Sudden Denouement Presents at Notsuoh on Friday Feb 23. It was an amazing performance. Thank you to Justin Valdez of JustInspireTV and Shawn Archibald for recording the event. And a big thank you to Rich of Super Robot Party, one of the best bands in Houston, for putting together such a great event.

Move Videos Forthcoming

Filmed by Shawn Archibald (IG: @shawn.wzdm)

Super Robot Party
The Thief and the Architect
JustInstpireTv
The Deadhearts
Such Marvelous Monsters
Sudden Denouement

 

Writin “Burnin Down the Box” – Nathan McCool

I’m real sick of all the normal talk in this town.

So dig this:

 

I stroll into a convenience store wild-eyed

as any nightmare; and I trade

a satchel of moirai eyes and could-be prophecies

for the cheapest, darkest beer I can pry

from the cooler’s scary fingers

at this late hour.

 

By the time I get home my heart’s bluebird

is already drowning.

Just a damn lightweight these days. Or so my fates say.

 

As usual, the violin and the guitar have been into

another tuning fork fight over why the

power for the amp won’t come on.

And one of em popped a string before

cracking the other’s head.

It’ll get nursed with apologies splattered on

a pill-shaped pillow tonight while I

find the loneliest room in the house

to write a very long metaphor in story form

on the ethics and morality

of the mass acceptance of social stigma.

 

I cast Lemmy’s Rickenbacker as the main protagonist.

I pit it against an angry village of cereal

all armed to the teeth in a riot

and ready for another attempt to march

on a Frank Zappa album.

(Damn cereal never stood a chance.)

 

As I go to write the musical score

I stretch wide above the piano;

drunk, lanky, and weary

like a dope fiend scarecrow

in the fields around Greenwood, MS

waiting to croon with Robert Johnson.

I lean in and tell her,

“There’s a wolf in my heart for you, baby.”

 

I write a real slow song and end it like this:

“Sorry dad,

but I really ain’t no prodigal son.

I ain’t nothing to be proud of

when the day is through.

But you and mom are gonna be alright

and I’m sorry I won’t make it home again.

But there’s just a lot in life I gotta do.

And if you won’t cry when you think of me

I’ll smile when I think of you.”

 

And then I nestle myself way down into

the hole in my acoustic guitar.

Down where the light never reaches.

And I do what anyone does

when they don’t believe in a damn thing

and they got no one to pray to…

I wait for nothing.


 

[Nathan McCool is actually so cool, I can’t stand it. You can find the haint, dusk, and sizzling of his concrete snares on Instagram, or at his blog, Mist of Melancholia.]

Conversations with Jasper: Spoken Word Artist Billy Pilgrim

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[Sudden Denouement is interested in all forms of poetic expression. Spoken word is one area in which we are trying to do outreach. I had an opportunity to do an interview with Billy Pilgrim who has a very distinct style of spoken work.

Jasper: I enjoyed your style of spoken work a great deal. I was very engaged by, not only the content, but also your production value. Give us some context about who you are and the evolution of your project.

Billy: Well, asking somebody who they are is a pretty deep question. So let’s start with the basics, we are a Norwich, UK, based duo. One spoken word poet, and one digital music producer. Interestingly we are second cousins, and we spent a lot of time listening to music and sharing ideas growing up. More recently as THK finished his degree in digital music, he was tasked with a collaboration project, this is really when Billy Pilgrim got involved. What started out as university project, spanned into something bigger. Now we produce music together, as well as gathering work from other spoken word poets and creating beat tapes which showcase other styles of poetry too. Really our aim is to put poetry back in the atmosphere and get people talking about it.

Jasper: I have always been a huge fan of spoken word, having worked the scene in Houston in the early-nineties. When I hear your style, I think of Sage Francis, who evolved his spoken work into quasi-rap. What are your influences in terms of spoken word?

Billy: It’s a strange one really, because as far as spoken word goes, I’ve listened to a lot more in since I’ve been writing it than I ever did before. I mean, of course I admire the work of Sage Francis, Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip as much as anybody else, But thinking about it, my influences come from all over. You know when you put a ‘further reading’ section at the end of an essay, because you don’t have any direct quotes to put in, but those books had an impact on your ideas. Well, my further reading section would be, Johnny Cash, Mike Skinner, The Notorious B.I.G, Kano and so much more, but I guess the link between those musicians is their narrative style. I like to listen to stories, and I like to tell them too.

Jasper: The music seems to be an essential part of your performance. It is amazing. How important is the music to your project, and do you feel that opens your music up beyond a poetry audience?
Billy: The music extends our reach, people who would never give poetry a chance can perhaps have their interest peaked by the music, that’s when the poetry might get them. THK works hard to create a balance with the poetry. It is important that it doesn’t overshadow it, but it can’t go unnoticed either. There is a symbiosis between the forms (we think!) that makes it something brand new.

Jasper:  I do a lot of interviews, and I always ask about to whom you own a debt in terms of writing, for me it was the Beat Generation. What writer’s inspired you early on and helped guide you in your journey?
Billy: Well the first person worth mentioning would be Kurt Vonnegut. I owe him for my name, Billy Pilgrim is the main character in his novel Slaughterhouse Five. In fact, that novel is what got me back into literature, and ultimately into writing and performing poetry. If he wasn’t dead, I would send him an email saying thank you for opening my peepers again. I really enjoy the abstract nature of his work. As for poetry, I like to read the works of Jack Underwood (another East Anglian poet) his poems give a fresh insight into the modern world. THK says his favourite novel is “Less Than Zero” by Brett Easton Ellis, he likes the dark undertones of it all. He gets inspired by themes when he makes music, novels like that effect his mind state, and help create a mood that develops into music.

Jasper: Give us a brief overview of your latest project, where we can find your spoken word, and what plans you have in the near future?

Billy: We recently released a demo, consisting of three tracks. We imaginatively titled it “Three”. The first song “I’m Afraid” (which also has a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXM7kxi0t8Q) explores heartbreak and control within relationships, but more than that it explores the impact these feelings have on life in the modern world. The second track “Ajar” is heavily allegorical, it follows a journey of discovery and development, the narrative features in this poem attempt to determine what sadness is and where it comes from. And finally, “love Affair” is a response to addiction, a breakup letter to alcohol which doesn’t hold back. Funnily enough when we perform this live, people think it’s about a woman and tell us they feel the same way about their ex-girlfriends, I always think jeez, that must have been one toxic relationship, ha. You can listen to the demo here (https://soundcloud.com/bpthk/sets/three) and download it for free. You can also follow our facebook, twitter, and word press.
https://www.facebook.com/BillyPilgrimwithTheHeartseaseKid/
https://twitter.com/bpwthk
https://bpthkspokenword.wordpress.com

If there are any poets out there who want to get involved in something exciting, we are working on a collaborative project called “words with friends” (https://bpthkspokenword.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/spoken-word-poetry-what-is-words-w-friends/) which is still collecting submissions.
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Rana Kelly – Until Her Darkness Goes

Rana

Today I would like to highlight the first novel of Sudden Denouement writer Rana Kelly Until Her Darkness Goes. Her book is available on Amazon.  Rana is an accomplished poet, and her novel highlights the scope of her writing. Her website is 2nd star to the left, straight on ’til morning. Please take a moment to step into the mind of Rana Kelly by visiting her site, and I would strongly suggest purchasing a copy of her wonderful novel. A review of her work is forthcoming. We are also very excited about the prospect of publishing her chapbook in the near future.

Synopsis:

Rachael Sullivan is NYC’s top music producer and owner of Red Hand Records, a private record label and a legendary empire of recording studios across the globe. But the music industry is in the toilet. Rock is dead, money is dwindling, and Rachael is on the cusp of losing it all. One night in a dingy London bar, she happens upon a raw talent that makes her believe in rock and roll again. The band is Murder of Crows, and her saving grace is Nicky McCallum, the genius frontman who is overcoming his damage. Both of them connect and find profound love, but they soon discover music and love aren’t enough. Drugs cloud the band’s success. Nick struggles with his addictions and demons, while Rachael fights her bipolar disorder and endures a harrowing loss that tests the strength of her soul. The two fight to save one another and remember what brought them together, before it’s lost in wreckage and blood.

Jasper Kerkau

 

 

Tumble Weed Blues – David Lohrey

There can be bebop and billowing skirts,
hot pastrami and cold beer, but only if
we’re good.

That’s the catch. We’re weighed down by doubt.
Can all this wonder be had for free? It’s
time to take stock.

All the pretty horses can’t put humpty dumpty
together again. It’s partly a matter of will
power, sure.

It’s mostly a matter of power, pure and simple.
And the will is half-hearted. There’s no
zeal. There’s no roll.

Ketchup, but no mustard. There are eggs, but
Benedict died last June of a stroke. Whoever
said we could have it all, lied.

The billowing skirts were not the first to go, but
the girls get tired of playing. They’ve
been recruited by the army.

Now women carry guns. Our next loss is jazz.
Without the blues, there’s no rhythm. The
country’s lost its beat.

Everyone is out of step. The problem
is not the booze. It’s the money. We’re all
too rich for our own good. We’re unhappy.

Louis Armstrong was elated. Count Basie, giddy.
Think back. You remember. Jazz was rollicking: horns
toot-tooting, the pianist on his feet, the drums exploding.

We’re all miserable. Fattened up for slaughter. Now
we wait for the other shoe to drop, as the centipede
crawls toward the exit.

We know it’s just a matter of time. It can’t go on like this forever.
We’ve become too refined, far too delicate, too fat for
good music.

Anyway…no one has the oomph. It’s all petered out.
We’re out of gas. There’s an energy shortage,
you know.

For the most part, pictures will be enough, for a while,
like those of farmers. Nobody wants to get his hands dirty,
digging in flower beds, plowing, changing diapers.

No one wants to turn potatoes, feed the pigs or geld the stallions.
What is there to celebrate if there are no children?
That’s the question.

If there’s no harvest, what’s the point of drinking? And
now they say there’s no purpose in planting flowers.
The suburbs are obsolete, no pleasure in squirrels.

No need for dogs to bark. No need for evening walks. No
need for games of catch. Eliminate the lawns, they decree,
which are nothing more than symbols of Farmer Brown.

There’ll be nothing to remember, not even the sound of crying babies.
Family life is finished. Dirty floors, mother’s milk, chicken pox
are all a thing of the past.

Now the smell of grass must go. It’s no longer the Age of Aquarius;
it’s the age of exhaustion. We’re entering America’s very own
Cultural Revolution. At the end of the day, they’ll be hell to pay.

It’s the age of recrimination. People stand around pointing fingers,
as the time French women were made to pay for bedding
enemy soldiers. They were driven through the streets, naked.

It’s an age of exculpation. We all want to wash our hands of it.
The only music left is what we demand to see others face.
Otherwise we want silence.


[David Lohrey is the Shadow Lord of brain-seizing, heart-piercing poetry, and a medium for the ether words. He was born on the Hudson River, but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. Also, he’s freakin’ awesome.]


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a shriveled love note in the barrel of an empty gun – samantha lucero

the man i loved who never knew
was tall like most men girls love & never tell
he was  t h e  unreachable one in missing scenes of my other life — one i could’ve had, but couldn’t, & now i can’t at all —
he was that untouched  n a m e  i never murmured aloud
a strangled sonnet that i would recite to a chasm in each yearning lover’s prison-grey heart,  wet-eyed with a desert-tongue and a diamond gun,
because you’re holding the smeared organ
the holy medal in my scalded dreams, where no one can hear what i whisper into my own nebulous mind,
so i scream in my head when i see you,
even in this inner-woven world where i can confess
to the fake piece of you that isn’t really there,

i don’t, i wouldn’t dare.


[Samantha Lucero writes stuff sometimes at sixredseeds.]