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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Five Lines from Anne Sexton; There Are Morning’s; Fado

By: Neil Flatman

Five Lines from Anne Sexton

Shelter in Place

sea fog finds little purchase on a slope from which

a redwood as though fully formed from seed.

A purple martin sings a border song from a bough below

a California condor wheeling through the universal blue

Father, this year’s jinx rides us apart

rain on a pair of neatly placed, decaying shoes beside

a fallen branch, long downed and gowned in moss.

Akigohara envelope; revealed. a photo of a woman

in a colourful kimono and a line from Anne Sexton

It is June and I am tired of being brave

in a multi-storey car park: the echo of the final alarm

call of a red station wagon left unattended by a little slick

of oil, and the stainless steel doors of the elevator open and close

open and close on a faint smell of piss, on which nothing depends

So it has come to this - insomnia at 3:15 A.M.,

the clock tolling its engine

the lights of Leicester Square in a still

pool birthed by a leaky main. A burger wrapper

wafts from one side to the another. Tumbleweed news

paper rolls fakely through space

Imagine it. A radio playing

and everyone here was crazy.

a woman caught in the middle of an April storm

pulls a two-wheeled khaki shopping bag over a zebra

crossing; rain drop atolls bloom across the canvass.

Her body cups.

We sail out of season into an oyster-gray wind,

over a terrible hardness.

There Are Morning’s

over coffee, as the dew

evaporates by the speed of light

and the needle of the day

descends, prepared to jump

back in the groove, we share

a moment full of nothing

more than silence.


Morning, and the dawn

chorus perched on the bars

of the empty stave.

You’d think – to quote

Richard Eberhart

– that god would relent.

First demagogues

and dilettantes, then

Larry Vaughn revivified.

In such, denial. Somehow

the voice of the rook

on the roof brings to mind

the sense of fruit; a girl

friend once said that

when he stroked her

nipple with his tongue

the taste of orange

blossomed on her own;

along the edge and down

the side where there’s copper

and irony; nothing bitter

not too sharp. Now Larry

says they’re opening up

the beaches. How

can that be right?

One hand gowns

while the other tans.

And now we’re stuck here

(you and I), in need

of a way out short of breaking

down the doors. Ah, yes; she

was beautiful (the girlfriend),

and tall, austere and would

sometimes look him up

and down, and smile:

one of seventeen

smiles – from excitement

to despair - up and down

being # eleven; the one

between acceptance and pity

that would make time

pause, as though she’d seen

a monkey in a mohair suit.

Like I said, you’d think god

might relent, but

in the midst of all this

quiet, life’s reductive.


Neil Flatman is an alum of the Tin House summer workshop and The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. He's been published in, or has poems forthcoming in (among others), Bombay Gin, Ithaca Lit, palette Poetry and The Paragon Press. His poem 'Objectify' was included in the anthology 'Written Here'

Interview with the Poet:


How long have you been writing poetry:

Neil Flatman:

I’d always read poetry but first tried writing my own (really terrible), poems in 2011 at an online board. Luckily, the group takes critique at least as seriously as writing, and while constructive they’re often also blunt. It was / is a great place to develop the thick skin you need if you want to submit.


Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


Faint Music by Robert Hass. I read it and saw what poetry was capable of, how many elements could be held in a single poem and how, like an explosion, it can expand in all directions simultaneously. I still read it and discover new elements.


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


Forest Gander and What it Sounds Like from last year’s collection, Be With, almost any of the poems in Void Studies by Rachel Boast, and The Little Girl by the Fence at School by William Stafford for a universe in just seven lines.


Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in

the zone?


I like silence, or if there’s music, it has to be instrumental or in a language I don’t understand. Lyrics find their way in and set up roadblocks. I’ll often start by listening to a poetry podcast such as Poem Talk or watch a craft lecture on You Tube. Writing poems is (for me), a process of relearning how to speak a language you thought you already knew. Listening to a poem being analysed is like overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop. I rediscover mechanics and structure while learning new ways to convey meaning.


How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?


I often start with that moment when I’m so envious of a thought or phrase that belongs to someone else, I can’t stand it (laughing with tears emoji) and have to write something, anything! At that point it’s about getting words down. If there is form in what I write it comes with revision when I’m a little more clear-headed. That unattractive base instinct is what kicks the motor into gear.


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


When making The Legend of Bagger Vance, the director (Robert Redford), told Will Smith, who was playing the lead, that there was only one thing he didn’t want: Will Smith. ‘Voice’ seems to be short-hand for authenticity, but if you read older poets you find their voice develops over the years, some to the point where you wouldn’t recognise early work as theirs. You are a choir of all the poets you have ever read. That’s why the more you read, the more notes you pull out of the bag.


What is your editing process like?


Revision is absolutely the best part of writing. Writing a first draft is like being the sorcerer’s apprentice: there’s water everywhere and the buckets and mops are in control. When revising, nothing moves without my say-so and with the water dry I can see where things go. At this point I should take the chance to apologise for sending snap shots of the soap-sud covered kitchen to long-suffering poet friends but the moment it’s gone I start to create distance.


When do you know that a poem is finished?


For me, I’m not sure they are. Ever. I’ll read an old published poem and see an alternative as clear as the nose on your face. The more the poem becomes a stranger, the more you can do with it.


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