Some Ether

Some Ether

by Nick Flynn
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Some Ether by Nick Flynn

Winner of a "Discovery"/The Nation Award

Winner of the 1999 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry

Some Ether is one of the more remarkable debut collections of poetry to appear in America in recent memory. As Mark Doty has noted, "these poems are more than testimony; in lyrics of ringing clarity and strange precision, Flynn conjures a will to survive, the buoyant motion toward love which is sometimes all that saves us. Some Ether resonates in the imagination long after the final poem; this is a startling, moving debut."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555973032
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 05/01/2000
Pages: 104
Sales rank: 630,696
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.26(d)

About the Author

Nick Flynn is a member of Columbia University's Writing Project and lives in Brooklyn. He is also the author of Blind Huber.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

    Bag of Mice

I dreamt your suicide note
was scrawled in pencil on a brown paperbag,
& in the bag were six baby mice. The bag
opened into darkness,
from the top down. The mice,
huddled at the bottom, scurried the bag
across a shorn field. I stood over it
& as the burning reached each carbon letter
of what you'd written
your voice released into the night
like a song, & the mice
grew wilder.

    Fragment (found inside my mother)

I kept it hidden, it was easy
to hide, behind my lingerie, a shoebox

above my boys' reach, swaddled alongside
my painkillers

in their childproof orange cups. I knew my kids,
curious, monkeys,

but did they know me? It was easy

to hide, it waited, the hard 0 of its mouth
made of waiting, each bullet
& its soft hood of lead. Braced

solid against my thigh, I'd feed it
with my free hand, my robe open

as if nursing, practicing
my hour of lead, my letting go. The youngest

surprised me with a game,
held out his loose fists, begging

guess which hand, but both

were empty. Who taught him that?

    The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands

Everyday,something—this time
a French ship with all her passengers & crew
slides into the North Sea, the water so cold
it finishes them. Nothing saved
but a life ring stenciled GRACE,
cut loose from its body. A spokesman can only
state his surprise
that it doesn't happen more often.

Last August, as I rode the ferry
from here to the city, a freak storm
surprised everyone,
& the Captain, forced below,
asked for a show of hands
as to whether we should go on. A woman beside me
hid her entire head in her jacket
to light a cigarette.

For years I had a happy childhood,
if anyone asked I'd say, it was happy.

    You Ask How

       & I say, suicide, & you ask
how & I say, an overdose, and then
she shot herself,

& your eyes fill with what?
wonder? so I add, in the chest,
so you won't think
her face is gone, & it matters somehow
that you know this ...

                        & near the end I
eat all her percodans, to know
how far they can take me, because
they are there
. So she
won't. Cut straws
stashed in her glove compartment,
& I split them open
to taste the alkaloid residue. Bitter.
Lingering. A bottle of red wine
moves each night along
as she writes, I feel too much,
again & again. Our phone now

         unlisted, our mail
kept in a box at the post office
& my mother tells me to always leave
a light on so it seems
someone's home. She finds a cop
for her next boyfriend, his hair
greasy, pushed back with his fingers.
He lets me play with his service revolver
while they kiss on the couch.
As cars fill the windows, I aim,
making the noise with my mouth,
in case it's them,

& when his back is hunched over her I aim
between his shoulder blades,

in case it's him.


I distrust the men who come at night, sitting in their cars, their
         engines running.

The living room a dark theater behind me, I watch from the curtained

My mother is twenty-seven.

She opens the car door & bends into the overhead light but before his lips
         can graze her cheek the door closes

& the light goes out.

They sit inside & fill it with smoke.

It looks creamy in the winter night, like amber, or a newfound galaxy.

I know cigarettes can kill & wonder why she wants to die.

A picture book teaches me how to vanish. All the children are monkeys.

They plunge into the icy sea each morning to become strong.

My mother buys a Harley & I cling to her past blurry lawns.

We walk out of Bonnie & Clyde after Gene Hackman staggers up dead.

We listen for fire bells & drive to the scene of burning houses, to stand
         close to tragedy.

The Greeks teach me to shout into the waves so people will listen.


            She'd screw a store-bought toy head,
a water-wiggle, onto the end of the green hose,

that made it & me go softly berserk
                twisting across the summer lawn

as if air itself were valium.

she could whisper the word burn

& I'd turn to ash

                A blackberry patch grew wild off the road
to the electric transformers.

I'd fill my hat & carry them home
                 for her to make a lattice pie. Now she tells me

that she doesn't know how to bake, that
no blackberries ever grew around us,

that I never ate pie anyway.

not ash, really,

but the bright flecks rising from a burning
                 house, the family outside,


Table of Contents

I The Visible Woman
Bag of Mice3
Fragment (found inside my mother)4
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands5
You Ask How6
The Visible Woman10
And Then, And Then11
My Mother Contemplating Her Gun13
Radio Thin Air17
Emptying Town19
II Oceanic
Cartoon Physics, part 124
Memento Mori26
No Map33
Wild with Dandelions & Roses35
Other Meaning38
The Robot Moves!40
How Do You Know You'reMissing Anything?41
III Devil Theory
Seven Fragments (found inside my father)45
Glass Slipper47
Father Outside48
Two More Fragments53
Man dancing with a paper cup56
Stylite (fragment #10)58
Elsewhere, Mon Amour59
IV Ether
Cartoon Physics, part 263
The cellar a machine whirring through the night65
Her Smoke (her trick)66
Five Hundred Years69
Soft Radio71
You moved me through each room77
Twenty-Pound Stone80
Some Ether81
God Forgotten82

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Some Ether 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had picked up this book about 3 years ago, and didn't buy it, and then spent the next 3 years looking for it. The poems in this book are so tragically touching, you can't read more than a few at a time, because it's like getting hit in the head and heart with a sledgehammer. You can feel Flynn's pain and see his pain through his writing. It's a truly amazing book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up out of a 'damaged' bin and was suprised by the profoundness and militant subtlety it held. Nick Flynn captures the relationships between objects and emotions, between young and old, and between human beings immaculately and smoothly, with a raw, brutal sense of reality. His tone is desperately cool on the surface and violent and explosive underneath, his words do not blatantly point out, but rather quietly hint at and echo truth from his perspective. Brilliance.