Alan Dugan Telling Me I Have A Problem With Time by Nick Flynn
He reads my latest attempt at a poem and is silent for a long time, until it feels like that night we waited for Apollo, my mother wandering in and out of her bedroom, asking, Haven't they landed yet? At last Dugan throws it on the table and says, This reads like a cheap detective novel and I've got nothing to say about it. It sits, naked and white, with everyone's eyes running over it. The week before he'd said I had a problem with time, that in my poems everything kept happening at once. In 1969, the voice of Mission Control told a man named Buzz that there was a bunch of guys turning blue down here on Earth, and now I can understand it was with anticipation, not sickness. Next, Dugan says, Let's move on. The attempted poem was about butterflies and my recurring desire to return to a place I've never been. It was inspired by reading this in a National Geographic: monarchs stream northward from winter roosts in Mexico, laying their eggs atop milkweed to foster new generations along the way. With the old monarchs gone (I took this line as the title) and all ties to the past ostensibly cut the unimaginable happens--butterflies that have never been to that plateau in Mexico roost there the next winter. . . .I saw this as a metaphor for a childhood I never had, until Dugan pointed out that metaphor has been dead for a hundred years. A woman, new to the workshop, leans behind his back and whispers, I like it, but the silence is seamless, as deep as outer space. That night in 1969 I could turn my head from the television and see the moon filling the one pane over the bed completely as we waited for Neil Armstrong to leave his footprints all over it.