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Review: Every Door Recklessly Ajar

Every Door Recklessly Ajar

By Nancy Flynn

Cayuga Lake Books, Ithaca, New York, 2015


Reviewed by Ann Staley

Nancy Flynn's slender volume of poems is filled with joy and mystery, grief and remembrance. It is the home of many pleasures, beginning with the zany, And I Will Tell You A Story, about how a tree grew out of a piano. Each of the four sections begins with a lovely quote like this one by Larry Levis:

                                                And so you put your hand out,

                                                Palm open,

                                                And then you feel, or you begin to feel 

The opening poem, Code Talker, is surely meant to be a word puzzle, Say lipstick and mean ghost stripes on the prow, say this and mean that. It is playful with some serious undertones: Say liver and mean none who survive. Do poets always write in code, I wonder. And I think, Yes. Yes we do, for we are translators of moments.

When I read the next poem, Runaway, I immediately wrote my own poem. You might feel the same invitational pull. Prepositions by Nancy Flynn; responses from this reviewer:

                                                from      Green Acres

                                                from       a 50's red brick ranch-house    

                                                from      a pair of mis-matched parents

                                                to            living in the Pacific Northwest 

The Winter We Lived In The Church & It Snowed Daily & The First Barrel Of Crude Oil Traveled Successfully Through The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is worth reading even after the title! 

At the center of the collection, an eight page poem, Tupelo, A Gospel According To, begins with, The day Elvis died, The Tupelo-Gainsville tornado outbreak, of April 1936 when 233 people died, 700 hurt, but they didn't count/any body/black and, I can remember/clarity, could see through the drip, my life clipped/ swervy yet two-lane. And don't you want to write your own?

                                                Harrisburg, A Gospel According To

                                                In late-winter, crocus & daffodils.

                                                in spring, apple blossoms,

                                                in summer, green grass,

                                                in autumn, bare branches

                                                In July, Hurricane Hazel,

                                                moves inland to Central Pennsylvania.

                                                Lightening and thunder,

                                                torrential rain soaks your clothing

                                                as you run to the safety of the front porch.

                                                You see how every moment in the present

                                                connects you directly to the past?

                                                 It's why we write.


Section 3 begins with the poem, How To Weather A Day Of 24-7 Media-Drenched Weather Hysteria which contains the book's title. All I remember is the day of September 11, 2001. Waking to the radio report of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Watching people leap from fiery top floor windows. If you were alive then, you remember exact moments from that day—hearing and seeing the news. Because I live on the west coast, it felt as unreal as watching a movie, played over and over again for twelve hours. I joined my friend, stay-at-home mother of two, and we watched together in her living room. I don't remember eating or drinking anything but coffee. Caffeine lifts the tarnish off silverware and assists your "coming to grips" with the new reality: Terrorism.  

A page or two later, I encountered the poem, Transubstantiation. I recognized the word, but wasn't sure of its meaning, so I looked it up in my Dictionary of the English Language, page 1507. I'm going to let you look this up yourself.

The final section contains the poem with the longest title: Complicity, Or Poem Written After Days Sitting Out On Our Explorer Of The Seas Stateroom Balcony & Staring Into That Sea Traversed For Hundreds Of Years By Ships Of The Middle Passage.  Why does the poet use such a long title? Marge Piercy told me to make my titles exact and irresistible. After Complicity the rest of the title does jus that.

This poem is followed by a sonnet, a villanelle, and Cape Disappointment, which concerns itself with a very cold weekend in the 1955 Spartan Manor, at the Sou'wester Lodge & Vintage Travel Trailer Resort in Seaview, WA.

I have visited Seaview twice in my life and both times it was blustery, cold and gray. There's a lighthouse, and a US Naval base, still occupied. You can see platoons of soldiers marching, raising the flags, young men who look handsome in their "whites" or their "blues."

The volume closes with a prose poem, Mercator Projections

                                                This is the map where I live now. Pipedream

                                                memory, land.