Home > Imprisonment > The Winter I Went to Two Al-Anon Meetings, Realized I Didn’t Have What It Took to Love Your Version of Alcoholic

The Winter I Went to Two Al-Anon Meetings, Realized I Didn’t Have What It Took to Love Your Version of Alcoholic

June 21, 2011

by Nancy Flynn

You crashed but never
burned and Six Mile Creek
froze for weeks. The stores
sold out of shovels; I chipped
and scraped with a hoe.

New Year’s Eve we walked,
ice all the way to town
a horizontal fish tank,
miniature minnows
our Pied Piper underneath.

Ice plugged the gorge,
slicked the bridge
over Ithaca Falls,
the one desperate
students died to leap.

Jumping wasn’t your style,
not enough slo-mo in that.
All January, our bed
had turned sleety
the fitted sheet stretched out.

You were working your way
through a suicide primer,
redacting the lists—first this,
then that, if all else fails,
eventually this again.

Cases of wine arrived
weekly from FedEx,
giant bags of empties
I dragged to the curb,
how they bangled, chains.

February was a blur,
an ankle cracked as well—
you said you lost your balance.
What weren’t you thinking,
gutters in that squall?

March on the ward
in group, they made you talk.
You told me how you quoted
Weldon Kees: The spangled
riddle is twitter and purr.

Because otherwise?
Solitary and no cigarettes
in that room, empty
but for a single,
sheetless bed with stains.

On April’s banks, the thaw,
and forsythia struggling to bud,
I turned runoff from
your mind’s residue vain-
violent. Never trickled back.

Tim the astrologer said:
You can always find
something to love—a dog,
a hummingbird, a pear.
End-of-winter, psychic

meteorologist, you were
the one, insistent whisper:
Dream on, bingo boots.
How soon the night turns
frost, bitten to the quick.


Note: The line “a mind’s residue vain/violent” plays on Weldon Kees’s line in “Corsage”: “your mind vein-violet.”

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Nancy Flynn (website) hails from the coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania. Her writing has received the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Oregon Literary Fellowship. Her poetry chapbook, The Hours of Us, was published in 2007. A former university administrator, she now writes creatively and edits carefully from her sea-green (according to Crayola) house near lovely Alberta Park in Portland, Oregon.

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  1. June 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Gorgeous, Nancy. The ice, the evocations, the brittleness, and warmth. AND! So glad to read your work in q. :-)

  2. Barbara LaMorticella
    June 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Nancy, you read this poem beautifully. I especially loved the last two stanzas, “you can always find something to love… end of winter, pschic meterologist… how soon the night turns frost….”

    “Dream on, bingo boots”– I may have to steal that line.

  3. Nancy Flynn
    June 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you both. This was the first time I ever recorded anything. I did it at home on my MacBook, hence a bit of echo I think. Barbara, I stole the bingo boots line from the “you” who is the subject of this poem…it was a standard of his.

  4. Lisa McCool-Grime
    June 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    So nice to get to know the poem reading it first and then to hear you read it. I agree with Barbara, “bingo boots” is great–but really all of the quotes in this poem are used to good effect. Nice work!

    • Nancy Flynn
      June 26, 2011 at 1:50 am

      Lisa, thank you, thank you, thank you. How much of my poetry success do I really owe to you? Immeasurable.

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