Thanks for checking out Mick’s Neon Fog. I’m Mick. I dropped out of college years ago to start writing a novel, then instead wrote short-stories, then instead got a real job and now I’m writing prose poetry in the mornings before earning a wage.
If you aren’t familiar with the prose poetry form, most people aren’t. So here’s the gist of a prose poem – it’s short. It’s in paragraph form, or it blends forms, or it has no form. It’s usually lyrical, pleasing to read, like a quick vignette that rhymes.
Here’s a great critique of the prose poetry cottage industry from David Foster Wallace.
A few notes on what you can find here
Prose poems are quick to produce, spur-of-the-moment and with a good kick to the chest. They’re quick to read. In about the time it takes you to listen to your favorite song, you can read a prose poem that hopefully elicits just as strong a reaction.
Prose poetry is great for the internet, browsing on your phone on the train, or on your laptop in the library when you don’t feel like studying. It’s the medium deciding the form.
So there’s an emphasis here on readability. You can read the original Neon Fog prose poems here, or by clicking on the Prose Poetry category on the right.
Prose poems are the main attraction, but you’ll also find those typical personal blog-type posts that read like journal entries. Those are fodder to make sure the site stays towards the top of search engines. I still enjoy writing them, and I hope you get a kick out of reading them. And as always, it’s great when you leave thoughts at the bottom of the posts.
How you can support
You can support original, unparalleled literature by becoming a Patreon at Patreon.com/MickHugh. Every contribution makes a difference. I freelance for a living — with every contribution I can dedicate that much more time to creating something you enjoy, something that matters, the kind of writing that – I hope – moves you and stays with you long after you’ve read it.
Patreon supporters are able to receive prose-poetry before it’s posted, and can even have a custom prose poem written anything of their choosing — a bad relationship, a desultory year, a relentless sense of dread. That’s right: CUSTOM PROSE POETRY, from yours truly. You provide the details, and I will publish an original prose-poetry piece dedicated to the event or topic.
Support from my patrons is what makes it possible for me to write creatively. It’s my dream, it’s my love, it’s my life. I can’t say thank you enough. In fact, it’s going to take me a lifetime to explain how much gratitude I have.
You can also show your support by following me on Twitter, @MickHugh_ ( that’s Mick Hugh underscore), to help you stay up-to-date on recent posts and to chat about books. I’m also on DeviantArt, at BMickHugh.
If you wish to contact me, any questions and all conversations are always welcome, please feel free to send an email to BMickHugh@gmail.com.
Thank you again for reading,
– Mick Hugh
Arm in arm go the couple in white, down the aisle, through the crowd. Vows told in lace, speaking secrets in the midday sun: a bouquet soars across its yellow face. Consummation is a popular word for their grandparents. There’s a quiet announcement in the newspaper: congratulations. Congratulations from friends and family, a high school teacher, a neighbor down the road. Flutes of spirits that sing like bee stings and second helpings of steak. A Bloody Mary drops on the floor. Loosening ties, shimmying off shoes, slipping from dresses getting ready to dance. Loud voices in the barroom, singing on the dance floor: the bride and groom sneak out the back with a bag full of checks and cards. Empty cans of tomato paste clatter down the asphalt, memories of the bride and groom told long after they’re gone. Absolved of old schemes, and disease, and dishonesty, the couple in white take the highway red with sunset. A new house, a new family, a new history to be told: bedsheets aren’t bloodied once. The nursery will not birth itself. The modern Magi come with pins, tack the bedsheets to the roof, and voices come like thunderclaps through the rooms. In a dream the new bride can cry alone, and unravel her dress, threadbare through the red of long years.
Midnight had fallen on me fast with sprawling soul. Loosed from denotations, in a reverie wandering towards home; hidden pockets between buildings where the dark was densest, where mysteries held fast to their own little worlds. I had no ground. I had no self but the faint sounds of crickets and cars in the distance, millions of years buried in the rock beneath my feet, the thousands of stories and romances and arguments imprinted in the histories of the brick and stone buildings of this campus. This sidewalk I’d walked a hundred times: no longer would it end, but continue on through town, down side streets and avenues and winding through alleys till nothing I saw had a name I could recall. Time might not have passed; and I found myself crossing a parking lot not far from home, and in the middle I stopped. The lot was empty; and when I saw it, I knew the reason for my bliss: the storied light of the night sky. The milk that wet the asphalt, the tree tops and the lawns, falling down from nighttime’s wondering face. It was wrapped in twisting wisps of cloud, obscured, a gauzy fluorescent haze above. It stood alone, untouched and imperturbable, the only saint who could paint shadows in the death of night. From atop its composite metal pole it stood as though from another world.
I’d placed my faith in the wisdom of famous nomads, taken flight from safe restraints. Gone were the dreams of childhood, the joy of birthdays, familial affection. Hunger for the sun-bleached highways and the beauty of unwalked streets; afternoons of careless horizons. The college dormitories, the dust of traditions, tuition and careers and the map of a future planned by a degree — oh how sweet the heat of lost hills when the dogwoods are in bloom. How at peace the heart can be when it wants nothing but the lonely road, and has it. If only for a moment. If only for a moment to wake in that Carolina field and feel the peach sun drying the dew in your hair: the new day pregnant and unknown, beckoning with sunshine on the backroads and strangers, fast talkers, heavy drinkers, kind souls who drive you fifteen miles and maybe stop for lunch. If only for a moment to have your heart swept by peace and the innocence of wanting nothing more. I was unfit for the halls of laws, unfit for the ivy’d desks of poets and philosophers, lost soul looking for a river to gently guide my years. A decade of drinking, a decade of dissolute evenings and yearnings for a sunset to capture my eyes. The long road led me to you. And now that we’ve wasted so much of our youth on a carousel of broken friends and crowded sidewalks, again to find ourselves hungry for hillsides and roadtrips and campsites overlooking eternity — to find our angry hearts hungry and struggling to pay bills, stuck on the economic conveyor belt of bills and jobs and deadlines. We’ve got no degrees, we’ve got no skills, we ain’t the motivation for MBAs and 401ks. We got dreams, honey, and a long muddy hillside even Sisyphus ain’t damned to climb.
I’ve been walking your forest for miles, miles that have turned into months. Deep nights in the strange black of squawking sweat-dreams; the rats that dart through leaves underfoot. I’ve seen the ages of your ancestors carved into trees, behemoths, knotted and twisted, and the gold of sunrises that fade away before the bright green of the leaves can be seen. The shadows of dawn are perpetual. You offer no hand to guide me. Bright lit banners of bars in secret caverns of the wood, and the voices that echo for miles in the half-dark between the trees. An owl stays perched on a limb stripped of leaves, sentinel and sentient, watching. You offer no consolation, nor warmth nor mirth; and your heartbeats are small quakes in the forest floor. Tremble of the branches, tremble of the brush; old foundations of brick pits in the ground, shake mortar from their stones. Shake the sweat from my pores. You gave no hint, no tell-tale signs, that we would end up like this. Hits of meth in the ivy-covered ruins, the mists that creep over these grounds. The frustration of an aching groin kept awake in the night by lonely strangers. Let no safe sleep lie: the clearings are littered with boulders and the deer paths fester with ticks. And I am the man who slinks through your forest wanting nothing but a soft escape. To creep from your nightmares that crawl from the boughs of the trees and the bogs where your face, blistered, reflects a thousand times. But the laughter, oh in the laughter of the hollow trees is the daylight of a memory. Moments of fresh fields wet with dew and the milk of the moon, barefeet and pigtails and dirt on your jeans so that with fingers, with my crooked arms and twitching fingers I scrape through the mud of your wood: notes to your 4th-grade crush, family pictures by the willows you loved and the time you camped on the porch with Maryanne, I can’t leave until I bring them back to you.
I didn’t make it to school today because our car wouldn’t start. It might be the lack of gas, might be the oil congealing, might be the gears stripped of teeth in the transmission. So we stayed in bed and made pancakes for breakfast. It’s not the first class I’ve missed, and it won’t be the last; not that I’m keeping track but I don’t I’ll flunk out on account of absences, however many. We’ve stopped counting. How many weeks left until rent, how many days till our next paycheck; how many meals left in the fridge, what date did the milk expire? How many months since your last period? We know your job will fire you, at 22, leaving work when your back starts to hurt just to stand. So we’ll bide our time. We’ll bide our time on the white-washed walls of our 1-bedroom on the edge of ungentrified hell. I’ll walk the miles it takes to get to work, the miles it takes to find a second job. Someone’s sure to hire me, eventually. We’ll save our pennies and buy a new car and then I’ll go back to school. I’ll have a great job, then, as a manager or a shopkeep or a journalist or an engineer, once I have my degree. And we can see that on the horizon, in the blue distance, the wavering mirage of happy vacations with the children and the family dog. We’ll have to get a dog. And we’ll be miles from here in a house in the suburbs where the sirens don’t scream in the streets at night, where the men don’t harass you, where the neighbors in the apartment next-door don’t blast music through the walls well past midnight. You’ll have a flower bed to bury our fears in. I’ll have a lawn to mow. And we can pretend that the dreams of our children are the same dreams we’ve dying for.
We had three bedrooms and a garage for the car. We had hardwood floors and a full-size stove, we had an attic to fill with boxes of things we didn’t use. We had a king-size mattress that didn’t squeak, we had kids’ toys in the backyard and a dog that only barked when strangers approached the house. We had security: stable positions in offices that offered paid vacations and 401ks. You had a diamond ring on your finger. I had my weekends free to take hiking trips and car rides with you and the children. You had a black abscess spreading in your brain. We had holidays with visiting family from out of state, winter days bundled warm indoors and summer mornings eating breakfast at the shore. We chopped down our own Christmas tree. Rainy afternoons were for trips to the library. Your quiet breath had a stench of decay, something rotting. I had failed to notice. I had failed to see it in the Poconos, failed to see it in Cape May; failed to notice the rot on Sundays mornings when you wouldn’t get up. I couldn’t notice the rot eating through you, not during our movie nights, not while we got drunk on the porch, not while I felt the cockroaches squirming under my scalp. I didn’t notice the children had been feeding themselves. And I couldn’t notice you losing any weight – it’s not like we were taking our clothes off. And when I noticed you were drinking all my whiskey the solution was more important than the message: we just had to go get more. We just had to keep burning bright buttons into our stomachs, just had to keep ignoring the rot. Kids in bed early, I’ll be late for work in the morning, let’s stay up late – our drinking date – and tell each other stories.
I kept the blackout shades drawn tight, dim room. Dim city sounds through the walls, barely audible. Drowsy yellow light from my bedside lamp — it was a small room, filled with yellow uterine warmth. I had a bed, and a desk, I was very fortunate, I had a mini-fridge and a carpet and a TV. I had a roommate who had disappeared into the city, bingeing, and a rent check I couldn’t afford. The store I worked for was shutting down, a job I didn’t like, so I stayed home. I stayed home and let the lead weight of ending days creep closer unannounced. I bought a bag of pot, a case of beer, ordered fast-food to my door, and masturbated frequently. Everything I could ever want to watch was available for download illegally. I watched sci-fi space travels and sitcoms, teen dramas, found nostalgia in the old colors of cartoons. Shows in which the youth always have a happy ending, where their sets are refreshed for the start of each show: A friend’s basement, or a bar, that they know is always there. The familiar tension in a plot line; episodic impermanence, their great shelter from despair. Retreat into your basement, retreat into your spaceship, no one will hate you tomorrow: your friends will be at MacClaren’s. I made a mistake, then, and peeked out the shades, a willingness to survive. I was surprised to find daylight still in the streets. I sat back down on my bed. What an awkward sensation, to be stationary, when you know the unseen world around you heaves and turns. The walls of my bedroom were paper-thin, I could feel the city’s humid heat drop its weight on my skin. I needed to find another apartment. I needed to find another job. I needed to find the courage to speak with people, to shove my will out at the world. But the days had a way of passing by in the night, no pattern to the way they rolled over. There was nothing stable about the ground, no framework in the sky, nothing I could expect but my own surprise at how quickly my grave could be dug.
I’ve been flaky the past couple of weeks, not around as often as I’d led on. Which feels dishonest. So I want to address my whereabouts and clear the air, get a fresh start.
I’m at the end of my 20s. It’s a cusp, because my 20s have largely been dissolute and aimless and I’m assuming 30 is when I “grow up”. I married a few years ago, worked in lawn care to support us, then we moved so I could go finish my degree in journalism. Which I did, finally, after 3 schools and 10 years, finally finish my degree. That degree landed me in a corporate communications gig (shoot me now, and shoot me once every morning) because journalists command the same wages as fast-food assistant managers. My corporate stint is coming to a close, however, it’s a contract position with an inevitable contractual conclusion. The bouldering question is what do I do next?
I can’t stand working for people, most of the time. When I was in lawn care I was working for a small company with a genuine friend as the owner, and I didn’t mind busting my ass 50 hours a week. That was almost enjoyable. Looking back, that was far more preferable. Corporate life is achromatic and demands a daily prostration before the people who command everything that you do. They’ve extended my contract because still I haul ass, but it’s gnawing my skull away. Brain matter has been left to puddle on my cubicle desk several times. It’s the hierarchy, rigid and unassailable; people shouldn’t waste their lives in subordination, nor should they find it meaningful to collect subordinates beneath them.
The last 5 years I’ve spent writing regularly, almost daily; writing frequently for long hours a few years before that. It’s the only thing I feel comfortable doing, the only aspect of the world I feel comfortable commanding; the only method of exerting my will that I find meaningful and honest and satisfying. When I don’t write, I turn into a bastard. There is no affection, no hope, no self confidence if I am not writing. If I can’t get myself out, onto paper or screen, nothing comes in and the pact I have with the world becomes a rigid, impermeable wall.
So I’ve been on a cusp, or a cliff is probably the best metaphor, for the last few weeks on a cliff with a strong wind at my back. I need to write, and I can’t waste any more months in subordination to some leaky asshole I depend on for paychecks. I need to take control of my own life, if you’ll allow me this moment of self-help verbiage, to reach for my dreams and shoot for the stars and the rest of the clichés about building a fulfilling life.
So I’m jumping the cliff into freelancing. Working 45 hours a week in my cubicle, plus the commuting, perennially lacking sleep, up late building-out LinkedIn and UpWork profiles, applying for contract work and freelancing gigs writing copy and trying to devise just how I’ll make this all work. I’m depending on it, my family’s depending on it, it’s finally time to dump myself into what I should’ve done – easy to say now, in hindsight – years ago. I’m going to figure out how to make a living writing.
The hope here is that, if I can control my own working hours, I can create more time to write prose-poetry and, eventually, hopefully soon, to write fiction and the novel that’s been on the back shelf of my brain for about a year.
To help make this all work, we’re leaving NJ, land of crushing living expenses. We’re going to rent a cheap little 3-bedroom somewhere in rural PA, and I’m going to spend my time building a writing career.
Thanks for reading,
It was you who took my hand, but we led each other in. Two kids at the end of a roadtrip, tangled and happy, ready for more. More heartbeats, more walks, more explorations of foreign shores, lined with milestones. We had a city full of smiling streets, a friend behind every door. We had a blank page to paint our life on, and we let our dreams bleed out. Angels’ wings and fluttered eyelids under bedsheets, vermilion mornings of sweet September. Bury me in your skin. Do you remember the night we walked into the woods? Bacchus laughed, and kept the moon bright: bum wine in our bellies, children of the vast plateau making haste for the wasting woods. They could taste our sins. Desultory years, caprices, diaries of lust and joy strung-up in the trees; thieves, caught trespassing into the night. Swiftly now. Grind your fist against the wall. Bake us bread with broken glass, we’ll cook the dust into something more. Can you hear them? Children cry unborn in bellies; still-birth stalking streets for coins. Join the huddled masses — sunlight, left far behind. The forest; leave no condolences: foreheads, cracked like egg-shells. The pulp of a heart and the crust of a lava-flow, breaking, revealing, burning through the wasted woodlands and the cities that hid our nightmares. Take my cock in your hand: copulation a public foray beneath the jealous trees of wicked greed, the homogeneity of a nation masquerading as sane. Show me a smile of broken teeth. A laugh that echos in abandoned concrete. Find the nails that keep our ribs together and pull: butcher of dead desires. Past picket fences and red wagons and warm mothers, what child asks for more? What can be seen through the pouring rain? — gray noon in Times Square, empty streets and the ripple of sidewalk puddles: millionaires without a penny. The famous without a name. Fast feet up the fire-escapes. Together in the alleys, together in the Bowery, together in the Strait of Hormuz. Together in the Dardanelles. Two children hand-in-hand, free, in the pages of an angel’s novel never read.
Two weeks ago I posted a modest declaration, something to the effect of, “I promise to post every day.” Then within the following ten days posted four times. So I feel I owe a bit of an apology to the growing crowd that frequents here, because I do appreciate everyone more than you’d think.
In short, I ran into a rut. Nothing horrendous, nothing broken, but I fell off keel for a few days and writing — what there was of it — wasn’t worth anyone’s time. And then this past Tuesday my internet was disconnected for neglecting to pay the cable bill. That had to wait till Friday, payday. Long story.
The good news is that I was able to catch up on submissions to a few publications, Sudden Denouement included, which is putting together an anthology that promises to make your nose bleed (don’t read it too hard).
A paramount goal for me has been to stay focused and keep the ship level, so to speak, and it seems everything is back on track — aside from promising employment, dwindling debt, etc.
In other news, I’ve decided to add a new page to this blog, a dictionary, which will feature the sort of words you either only hear once or, hear a few times but never enough to stick. The sort of vocab words which, I think, can help make writing pop, add a little flavor, hit the right sort of note. I keep them in a journal and jot them down when reading, so I might as well share them here. If you’re not already following me on Twitter, I’m @ MickHugh_ (mick hugh underscore); you’ll be able to find the same vocab words there, where we can see who comes up with the best examples of the words in sentences (what else can we do on lunch break?).
Also, lastly, if anyone has any tips on building a solid Patreon page, fill me in. I’m exploring a few different ways of monetizing Neon Fog, without ads, so if there are some avenues or tricks you know of, let’s chat.
Thanks for reading.
The grass was short on the ball fields. Lazy Sunday afternoon, and the park was mostly empty: alongside the poolhouse on a picnic table, behind a row of tall firs, the girl was telling him about her campus. She made it seem wonderful, the library and the classes and the student activities. She was two years older, and very pretty, named Alyson, plainly. The afternoon was hot and slow, and so too was the summer; sun streaks dappled through the tops of the firs and the boy wasn’t sure why, but his mouth seemed stuck in his throat. He hadn’t spoken — the girl talked so much — but for little observances he knew she’d find agreeable. Squirrels chased around in the fir trees’ pine needles. Cool water babbling in the brook behind them. The silent expanse of the deep blue sky and the quiet stretches of the park. A perfect moment lonely with an older girl. Yet the boy couldn’t shake the feeling of rotors and gear-boxes muffled and humming, a hidden mechanical cover, behind the scenes of their paradise sky. Which might have been his head: he was embarrassed of his desire: Little pervert prick, she’d tell her friends. She was asking him if he’d like to come visit, to her college. So he told her he’d like that very much — transparent enough to blush — and the girl kissed his cheek goodbye. The boy then walked through the park alone, taking his time to the road. The pavement felt careful beneath his feet: the trees seemed to be breathing, something quiet and full of meaning. His body felt full and hard and light. Picturing the kiss on his cheek. The grass seemed phosphorescent, and the cotton-puffs drifted dreamily in the sky. The air glittered, like specks of tin floating in water. The boy was sure he was somehow high. Was this elation? Was this his joy? turned inside-out to the warmth of the earth. The street ahead disappeared round a bend of the hillside and he saw where it went, past groves and the homes of his neighbors — and the road continued on, hot and long forever abiding the lilt of the land, straight onwards towards the mountains and going on even after that, across the vast plains of the northern plateaus, tilting around gentle hills and the curvature of the earth — finally to bury itself in blue snow somewhere north of Canada. The boy knew his dreams just as clearly: the road wrapped the world before him, and in his chest a bright burning for the gentle moments unfolding, excitement to find something similar in a beautiful stranger, to gaze at the peaks of mysterious mosques and the spires of red rock along the straight roads to California. To hold cities in his hand! But he was only going home. And he knew if he called his friends they were damned to play those old familiar motions and conversations; the next morning to ride buses to school. The affections of their mothers. Satisfying isolation in their bedrooms. In a year he’d be off to college. And in five years who would he meet? What beautiful strangers who weren’t caught in the gears of the silent machinery? The muffled lights in their chests. Long lines of blank squares counting through the days of their ending years. Sweaty suits barking orders from behind desks, and the cowering creatures that scurry to fill their orders. The boy was rubbing his cheek. He was very disappointed. Alyson’s major was in corporate management.