What You Can’t Hear

Nick Flynn

The child looks back at the window of the room he's just fled,each pane now filled with sparks, each spark one of his toys—monkey spark, matchbox spark, yo-yo spark.It was the smoke that woke him, nothing else. When he wokethe air was just smoke, but now it is studded with sparks.Lightning bugs, he thinks, my room is filled with lightning bugs.Mom in her bathrobe, her boyfriend in his boxers, sparks swirlaround their words.He wants to run back inside, but he cannot—his feet sink intothe lawn.The trees reflect the house now, their leaves illuminated from below.Like the palms of gospel singers, he thinks.Years later, he will be in bed beside a woman & he will tell her aboutthe fire—We all made it out okay, he tells her, his eyes still studdedwith sparks. But when she reaches for him it is with hands of smoke,the smoke a cloud in his lungs, as if too much dark lived there.Outside his window, it's that tree again, singing.What you can't hear is the light caught inside each bud.What you can't hear is the leaves caught inside each spark.

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Nick Flynn is the author of four poetry books, including I Will Destroy YouMy Feelings, and Some Ether, which won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and three memoirs, including Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. He teaches at the University of Houston and lives in New York.

Beginning with a poem called “Confessional” and ending with a poem titled “Saint Augustine,” I Will Destroy You interrogates the potential of art to be redemptive, to remake and reform. But first the maker of art must claim responsibility for his past, his actions, his propensity to destroy others and himself. “Begin by descending,” Augustine says, and the poems delve into the deepest, most defeating parts of the self: addiction, temptation, infidelity, and repressed memory. These are poems of profound self-scrutiny and lyric intensity, jagged and probing. I Will Destroy You is an honest accounting of all that love must transcend and what we must risk for its truth.

“Nick Flynn’s poems are gritty and emotional, grim and loving, funny and also about death and addiction and grief. I can’t wait to sleep with this volume under my pillow.”
Literary Hub

“Each poem is a compelling dynamic where language is shattered and rebuilt to convey truths that are haunting and beautiful. Nobody bends a lyric the way Flynn does to break the heart.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“What is there to say when a book is such absolute perfection―beauty, grief, and redemption―that it literally takes all words and air from the mouth?”
―Jacqueline Woodson

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