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About this Poem 

“I was going to call this poem ‘Pretend It Matters.’ It is nearly a found poem, in that I simply transcribed an incident—whatever transformations happened, happened in the moment. The girl’s question genuinely threw me—we teetered for a moment on the edge of existential dread, that edge we avoid as we get older and closer to the actual abyss.”

—Nick Flynn

Forty-Seven Minutes

Nick Flynn, 1960

Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the grass & a styrofoam cup, a girl raises her hand & asks, Does it matter? I smile—it is as if the universe balanced on those three words & we’ve landed in the unanswerable. I have to admit that no, it doesn’t, not really, matter, if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads. But, I whisper, leaning in close, to get through the next forty-seven minutes we might have to pretend it does.

Copyright @ 2014 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 24, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 24, 2014.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn was born in 1960 in Scituate, Massachusetts. He is the author of the poetry collections The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000).

by this poet

poem

The newly dead hung on to the ceiling last night  

            like moths, wanting to tell us what they hadn’t

              found words for yet, their bodies still


warm on their mattresses below—they did not look

              comfortable, passing themselves

poem

Try this—close / your eyes. No, wait, when—if—we see each other / again the first thing we should do is close our eyes—no, / first we should tie our hands to something / solid—bedpost, doorknob— otherwise they (wild birds) / might startle us / awake. Are we forgetting something? What about that / warehouse, the one

poem
When you see us swarm — rustle of

wingbeat, collapsed air — your mind
tries to make us one, a common

intelligence, a single spirit un-
tethered. You imagine us merely
searching out the next

vessel, anything

that could contain us, as if the hive
were just another jar. You try

to hold the ending, this
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