Cartoon Physics, part 1 by Nick Flynn

Cartoon Physics, part 1


Children under, say, ten, shouldn’t know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies
swallowed by galaxies, whole
solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning
the rules of cartoon animation,
that if a man draws a door on a rock
only he can pass through it.
Anyone else who tries
will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds
should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,
ships going down—earthbound, tangible
disasters, arenas
where they can be heroes. You can run
back into a burning house, sinking ships
have lifeboats, the trucks will come
with their ladders, if you jump
you will be saved. A child
places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,
& drives across a city of sand. She knows
the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn
that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall
until he notices his mistake.

“Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn from Some Ether. Copyright 2000 by Nick Flynn.

Source: Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000)

Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, January 26, 1960.  He has been many things in his life other than a poet and a writer.  He worked as a ship’s captain as well as a caseworker for homeless adults.

Flynns book, “Some Ether” (2000), won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, at which time the judges said this statement:  “Some Ether focus on Flynn’s tumultuous family life and include a detached yet affecting look at childhood and trauma”

This gave me some ideas about cartoon physics part 1.  Maybe Flynn was referring to himself when he wrote that a child under 10 should only be concerned with cartoons.  I looked more into Flynn’s life and found out that his mother had committed suicide and at the age of 27 he reunited with his homeless father at a shelter.  Certainly these are difficult issues and events that could cause someone to wish for children of a young age to stay innocent.  Maybe he doesn’t want other children to be opened to all the things can offer them, the pain, and tragedy.  I think he wants kids to have fun, enjoy and the moment while they have nothing pressing weighing on their shoulders.


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