Nick Flynn (reading): “Sometimes I’d see my father walking past my building on his way to another nowhere. I could’ve given him a key, offered a piece of my floor, a futon, a bed, but I never did. If I let him inside I would become him and the line between us would blur. My own slow motion car wreck would speed up. The slogan on the side of a moving company truck read: “Together we are going places” modified by a vandal or a disgruntled employee to read: “Together we are going down.” If I went to the drowning man the drowning man would pull me under. I couldn’t be his life raft.”
Nick Flynn: “When I was 24, I ended up applying for a part-time position, a fill-in staff position at the Pine Street Inn in Boston which was certainly the largest shelter in Boston, one of the largest in the country at that point, it had just recently opened. There were 300 beds there and we’ve had about another 100, 150 sleeping on the floor. I began writing my memoir almost ten years to the day after my father appeared at the shelter. I had been working at the shelter for three years and sort of had become comfortable there, proficient. I was supervisor at times. And then my father who I didn’t grow up with, ended up getting evicted from where he lived, he was living in a rooming house in Boston. And he showed up and he ended up being homeless you know what he thought was a temporary couple of weeks, you know, just to stop in the shelter ended up being five years. It’s how he and I got to know each other because we didn’t grow up together. So, we got to know each other that way, in the shelter.
My father in my poems, my first book of poems, especially Some Ether, he’s one of the main threads that goes through that book. Which is often the case for many peoples’ first books of poetry, sort of presenting one’s self and one’s life to the world. People rightly don’t assume that everything you’re writing is a fact, is what actually happened. So, there’s this whole character in that first book of poems of a homeless father. Many people read it as an archetype, like this is the archetype of the lost father, the alcoholic father, the wandering father. At a certain point, I felt frustrated by that just cause some things do happen. We do live in a post-modern world, but some things do happen. You know, not everything is based on subjective reality. There is an objective reality also. And the objective reality is my father is homeless. It’s a strange thing to spend ten years writing a book and then to have people dismiss it, to feel like they were dismissing it as like “oh this is invention, this is an imaginative act, this is a metaphor.” And it seemed important to me to acknowledge that this is something that really happened.
Music: Excerpt of “Intermission” from the album, Soundtrack for a Film That Doesn’t Exist, composed and performed by Johnny Ripper, used courtesy of FreeMusic.org