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Nick Flynn

(1960 - / Boston / United States)

Alan Dugan Telling Me I Have A Problem With Time


He reads my latest attempt at a poem
and is silent for a long time, until it feels
like that night we waited for Apollo,
my mother wandering in and out of her bedroom, asking,
Haven't they landed yet? At last
Dugan throws it on the table and says,
This reads like a cheap detective novel
and I've got nothing to say about it. It sits,
naked and white, with everyone's eyes
running over it. The week before
he'd said I had a problem with time,
that in my poems everything
kept happening at once. In 1969,
the voice of Mission Control
told a man named Buzz
that there was a bunch of guys turning blue
down here on Earth, and now I can understand
it was with anticipation, not sickness. Next,
Dugan says, Let's move on. The attempted poem
was about butterflies and my recurring desire
to return to a place I've never been.
It was inspired by reading this
in a National Geographic: monarchs
stream northward from winter roosts in Mexico,
laying their eggs atop milkweed
to foster new generations along the way.
With the old monarchs gone (I took this line as the title)
and all ties to the past ostensibly cut
the unimaginable happens--butterflies
that have never been to that plateau in Mexico
roost there the next winter. . . .I saw this
as a metaphor for a childhood I never had,
until Dugan pointed out
that metaphor has been dead for a hundred years.
A woman, new to the workshop, leans
behind his back and whispers, I like it,
but the silence is seamless, as deep
as outer space. That night in 1969
I could turn my head from the television and see
the moon
filling the one pane over the bed completely
as we waited for Neil Armstrong
to leave his footprints all over it.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Read poems about / on: metaphor, television, poem, winter, childhood, running, silence, woman, moon, mother, night, time, butterfly, women

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