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By Nick Flynn

Children under, say, ten, shouldn’t know

that the universe is ever-expanding,   

inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies


swallowed by galaxies, whole


solar systems collapsing, all of it

acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning


the rules of cartoon animation,


that if a man draws a door on a rock

only he can pass through it.   

Anyone else who tries


will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds

should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,   

ships going down—earthbound, tangible


disasters, arenas


where they can be heroes. You can run

back into a burning house, sinking ships


have lifeboats, the trucks will come

with their ladders, if you jump


you will be saved. A child


places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,   

& drives across a city of sand. She knows


the exact spot it will skid, at which point

the bridge will give, who will swim to safety

& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn


that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff

he will not fall


until he notices his mistake.


"Cartoon Physics, part 1" by Nick Flynn from Some Ether. Copyright 2000 by Nick Flynn. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

Source: Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living

Poet Bio

Nick Flynn
Poet and memoirist Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, on Boston’s South Shore. Most of the poems in his first collection, Some Ether, focus on Flynn’s tumultuous family life and include a detached yet affecting look at childhood and trauma. Having written about his family in both poetry and prose, Flynn has said, “The way I write I don’t see much distinction between the two, although prose seems more suited to daylight, and poetry to night. I try to cook both down to something essential—by the end hopefully some balance between mystery and clarity remains.” See More By This Poet

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