Friday, September 1, 2023



Anthems Are Like Chewing Gum


The reason birthdays are so popular

is that they are affirmations of existence,

the acknowledgement of others

which seems a social imperative of sorts,

and anthems are like chewing gum;

you find your brand and flavour

and are good for life – at least,

that is the advertisers’ dream:

to sell you on something every bit

as much as you sell them which may

seem like one funny little munchkin

of a notion, but it works.


Hall Of Masks


Spilling in from coarsing ballasts,

there is little time for an adjustment

of eyes, the feel of a pressing dryness

across furry promise-heavy tongue,

scorn and amnesia in equal measure,

and what should I find after many moments

at personal standstill –

this expansive hall of masks;

faces looking down, casting dispersions:

sunken skin peels, gaping carnie jowls,

Appalachia grotesques…

that reek of old embalming fluid 

and ceremonial wrappings,

the tribal cannibalistic;

I am Saturn’s child being devoured

down further into these musty waiting bowels –

a sickness of mind, if not belly.

Sweeping The Lot Out In Brentwood


My aunt ran the general store and gas station

out there.


I spent the weekend out there when I was nine.

My cousin Kent dropped me off,

I remember how fast he sped away.


Like he knew something I did not.


My aunt had readied the pull-out couch

and put me to work right away.


Sweeping the lot out in Brentwood.

Dirt piled so high I had to lean into the push broom.


Form many lines towards the surrounding brush.

It took me all afternoon.

Nobody ever stopped for gas or anything else.


My Aunt sat with her friend inside.

Each morning, I got up early and watched

an episode of Quantum Leap

while everyone else was still sleeping.


Wondering if Al could help Sam

out of the mess he found himself in.


After a quick breakfast, it was back to work.

The dirt had all returned somehow.


And now I was stocking shelves inside the store.

Even though they were already stocked.


That was a lonely place.

The incessant humming of summer

field insect hoards.


I never saw another human being

that was not my aunt or her friend

or her daughter.


Perhaps that is why my aunt requested my presence.

She sold the store and gas station soon after that.

Moved back to the city.


Maybe it was lonely for her too.




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, Our Poetry Archive, Setu, Literary Yard, and The Oklahoma Review.



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