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
– that god would relent.
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:
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
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.