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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

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

Born in 1960, Nick Flynn is the author of the poetry collections My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

by this poet

poem

You do know, right,
that between the no-

longer & the still-
to-come

you are being continually
tattooed, inked

with the skulls of
everyone

you’ve ever loved—the you
& the you

& the you & the you—you don’t
sit in a

2
poem

If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes


Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the

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
2