“Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Cartoon Physics, part 1
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.
from Some Ether, 2000
Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Copyright 2000 by Nick Flynn.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, from Some Ether. Copyright 2000 by Nick Flynn. For further permissions information, contact Permissions Department, Graywolf Press, 2402 University Ave., Ste. 203, St Paul, MN 55114. www.graywolfpress.org
About the Poet
Nick Flynn (1960- ) is the author of four poetry collections, including My Feelings: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2015). Flynn was was born in Scituate, Massachusetts. His debut poetry collection, Some Ether (2000), won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award
Learn more about Nick Flynn at The Poetry Foundation