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10-04-2010

Nick Flyn

Bag Of Mice

I dreamt your suicide note
was scrawled in pencil on a brown paperbag,
& in the bag were six baby mice. The bag
opened into darkness,
smoldering
from the top down. The mice,
huddled at the bottom, scurried the bag
across a shorn field. I stood over it
& as the burning reached each carbon letter
of what you'd written
your voice released into the night
like a song, & the mice
grew wilder.

Fragment (found inside my mother)

I kept it hidden, it was easy
to hide, behind my lingerie, a shoebox

 

above my boys’ reach, swaddled alongside
my painkillers

 

in their childproof orange cups. I knew my kids,
curious, monkeys,

 

but did they know me? It was easy

 

to hide, it waited, the hard O of its mouth
made of waiting, each bullet
& its soft hood of lead. Braced

 

solid against my thigh, I’d feed it
with my free hand, my robe open

 

as if nursing, practicing
my hour of lead, my letting go. The youngest

 

surprised me with a game,
held out his loose fists, begging
guess which hand, but both

 

were empty. Who taught him that?

You Ask How

 

& I say, suicide, & you ask
how & I say, an overdose, and then
she shot herself,
& your eyes fill with what?
wonder? So I add, in the chest,
so you won't think
her face is gone, & it matters somehow
that you know this...

 

& near the end I
eat all her percodans, to know
how far they can take me, because
they are there. So she
won't. Cut straws
stashed in her glove compartment,
& I split them open
to taste the alkaloid residue. Bitter.
Lingering. A bottle of red wine
moves each night along
as she writes, I feel too much,
again & again. Our phone now

unlisted, our mail
kept in a box at the post office
& my mother tells me to always leave
a light on so it seems
someone's home. She finds a cop
for her next boyfriend, his hair
greasy, pushed back with his fingers.
He lets me play with his service revolver
while they kiss on the couch.
As cars fill the windows, I aim,
making the noise with my mouth,
in case it's them,

& when his back is hunched over her I aim
between his shoulders blades,

 

in case it's him.

                       -from Some Ether

BIO: In 1960, Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, on Boston’s South Shore. He worked as a ship's captain and at a homeless shelter in Boston before being awarded a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. After the two-year fellowship he moved to New York, where he got his MFA from New York University and taught in Columbia University’s Writing Project. He is the author of three books of poetry, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf, 2002), and Some Ether (2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. Flynn’s work has been described as post-confessional, primarily because of the poems in Some Ether, which focused on his mother’s suicide when he was twenty-two, his difficult childhood, and his stilted family life. In Blind Huber, however, the poems eschew Flynn’s history and focus on the life of the blind beekeeper, Francoise Huber, who lived in the 18th Century. While the subject matter may differ dramatically, in all of Nick Flynn’s work there is the struggle for connectivity in a disjointed and harsh reality. As Claudia Rankine noted about Some Ether, "We are guided by a stunning and solitary voice into lives that have spiritually and physically imploded. No one survives and still there is so much to be felt. Here is sorrow and madness reconciled to humanity." Nick Flynn is also the author of the memoirs, The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2010), and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004), which received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and has been widely translated. He was awarded “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Amy Lowell Trust. He teaches part time at the University of Houston.

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