The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands

Nick Flynn, Author
Nick Flynn, Graywolf, $22 (104p) ISBN 978-1-55597-574-6
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 02/01/2011
Paperback - 94 pages - 978-1-55597-633-0
Show other formats
Terse, at times horrifying, and hard to forget, Flynn's third collection of poems—the first since his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004) made him something of a celebrity—tackles topics familiar from the last decade's news: the captain of the title, who appears in the longest poems, is at once an absent, wicked, or unanswering God, a vague father, a political authority, and a military leader in a place much like Abu Ghraib. "Capt'n, we can do as we wish, we can do/ as we wish with the body// but we cannot leave marks"; "one drop hangs on the prisoner's tongue—capt'n// are we allowed to force him to swallow?" Torture, imprisonment, and arduous military service are leitmotifs, or metaphors, in most of the volume's poems, and a wartime, warlike, post-9/11 America forms their backdrop: "the tower towers above us/ now, we can see it/ from wherever." Flynn's political anger does nothing to diminish his raggedly individual voice, and his shorter efforts include what sound like dissonant wartime love poems: "First thing we should do/ if we see each other again is to make/ a cage of our bodies—inside we can place/ whatever still shines."" (Feb.)