Saturday 8 June 2024

Five Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan


Poem for a Man Who Always Asks for the Time, 

but Refuses to Wear a Watch  


Such a yearning to get off this planet, 

no wonder there are so many travel agents – 

and I am a yeti around town these days, 

no match for the triple glide razor,  

all those summer patio sociabilities  

that can add up like an ocean of rusty  

shipping containers in transit, 

full of perishables like ourselves, 

so that I run my fingers down a deserted chalkboard, 

write this poem for a man who always asks for the time, 

but refuses to wear a watch, like upsetting the succession plan 

with a handful of coloured breath mints, 

going after those numbers with all the sloppy  

gumption of an untimely suitor, 

& into the viper’s den we go: 

this crink in my neck, sheer avalanche!  

Turning the music up to meet the dance. 

I am a harmonium of high rents  

and low standards.


Dropping like Flies, Plates, New Records in the Rap World 


The good stuff used to be $5 a tab, and we’d enlist the pubescent collective  

to rent this no tell motel out by the highway, hiding in the bathroom  

and behind the curtains when periodic noise complaint room checks came around, 

the glitter lips sticking to the bottle and the rest of us dropping like flies, 

plates, new records in the rap world – laid out on the flowery bedspread after 30 minutes, 

watching tiny insects on the ceiling hatch their eggs down onto our faces, 

fingering the many tactile fabrics that encased you in clammy form,  

eyes that stop blinking, that monumental television scramble – 

damaged adoption child on the phone to distant father, 

slurring out that gumbo of sloppy confessions she had practiced  

in front of the mirror for so long; a trunk full of banker’s boxes 

out in the lot, so the legal team of Lewis, Cruikshank & Denial  

can explain the evidence away.



Praying When No One Is Looking 


Faith can be theological espionage  

when you live alone, by choice 

close the door behind you, 

praying when no one is looking, 

but only for the big things; 

you are no simple charity case, 

you want the many unseen forces  

to know that about you, 

take such selective immolations   

into account 


and your knees seem lumpier by the day, 

that Pythagorean thing you do with your hands 

over the side of the bed, 

no one needs to see the math  

behind the numbers: 


that ugly face you make when you cry 

that hasn’t changed since you  

left diapers.





All those rebounds  

under the basketball net, 

fighting for position  

while the daresay gets brave 

over library card late fees 

that never come back to you. 


The basement thrown out  

of the bedroom 

by the kitchen showing  



She has kids with the last one. 

Lost her virginity to a frozen hotdog 

from dinosaur times. 


Something with plated armour, 

drinks in the evenings.  


Beats someone else’s kids  

when the bars get out 

with this bent contortionist  

of a coat hanger. 


Enjoying screams  

instead of safe  



That damaged freezer burn neglect. 

She always goes back.


Pine Gap 


Have you been to Pine Gap? 

Seen our friends from another end? 

Licked cosmic custard from the bottom 

of the bowl? 


I realize that is a quick succession of questions 

not seen since kings replaced queens  

on a throne made of rowdy thickets. 


That you hold no more answers than 

the many number to call billboards along the freeway 

that seem to slowly devour the sky. 


And tourist dollars are just outside contraband 

smuggled into local prisons, 

let’s get that out of the way like a communal  

sidestep of perpetual evasion. 


The last time you drank too much and got sick, 

I held your hair with surgical scalpel exactness. 


Over a toilet that hadn’t been cleaned 

since Caesar crossed the Rubicon. 


Call that love. 

Call back the phone centre  

that has everyone else on the line. 


If we walk together in the rain, 

no one will have to pretend to get wet. 


In these prurient tight fangs 

of razor wire rockabilly.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


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