Nancy Flynn grew up on the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania, spent many years on a downtown creek in Ithaca, N.Y., and has lived near the mighty Columbia River in Northeast Portland since 2007.
She attended Oberlin College and Cornell University and has a master’s degree in English from SUNY/Binghamton. She is a former university administrator, and her writing has received an Oregon Literary Fellowship and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Flynn’s recent publications include the poetry collection Every Door Recklessly Ajar.
Flynn says she loves living with her retired forest pathologist husband, John Laurence, “in a village of awesome neighbors down the street from Alberta Park.” She is especially proud of their platinum-level Backyard Habitat, which now boasts a wild beehive in a bigleaf maple. “And she grows way too many dahlias in their front yard for her beloved pollinators,” her biography states.
CNews is sharing an example of her most recent work, inspired by Portland’s wintry weather. To learn more about her work, visit NancyFlynn.com.
Record-breaking Winter Storm Tableau
late February 2023
By Nancy Flynn
It bore the ice, later snow,
that terracotta table of stone.
Became perch for chickadees,
bushtits and meadowlarks before
their launch to suet, to safflower seed.
Even the hummingbirds gave up
their rivalries, took civilized turns
sipping at the iridescent ruby
bottle I took in after dark
so it wouldn’t freeze then break.
The previously perky hellebores
collapsed under eight inches
of weight. One afternoon, sleet
fell slick, thickly dimensional,
bouncing from the wind chimes,
from lustrous camellia leaves.
Now finally today—
a temporary melt, no trace, no figment
of the thing that dazzled yesterday.
The neighborhood murder of crows
is back from what seemed like days
in their downtown overnight roost.
There’s a junco spilling the birdbath,
a plash of oars, a gaiety and every tulip
has emerged, doubled in height
despite an unseasonable, lingering
chill. Inside, I raise the thermostat
one more degree, study the fleeting
return of the sun. The world it glares,
for a moment all shimmer and drip,
while waiting for the next inevitable
cloudburst to thunder down from
a heaven like a tent. We are blanketed
by our selfishness, our apathy, our sin.
We are footprints in our downfall—
watch them drift.
The italicized lines in this poem are from Emily Dickinson’s poem #257, “I’ve known a Heaven, like a Tent” written in 1861.