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Poetry Corner | Lincoln’s Life Mask

Contemporary poetry has turned more toward the narrative, heightening the mundane or examining the small details of our lives. In person, Keith Flynn doesn’t just read his poetry – he performs it. He breaks into rollicking, captivating song, closed eyes and booming voice, transporting you with him to the misty blue mountains of his North Carolina home. Here, Flynn moves from gazing upon the face of a past president to a haunting image of Darwin and God: this is how Keith Flynn moves, slipstream, from stone to glory. I highly recommend his work and hope you enjoy “Lincoln’s Life Mask.”

 Abraham Lincoln memorial

Lincoln’s Life Mask

Who would guess, 150 years hence,
that visitors would line up to look you
in the eye? Staring face to face with
Lincoln, that square Midwestern
Clint Eastwood chin, every profile
from the right, excepting two, his first
campaign poster, and the cartoon of his
assassination, shanghaied from behind
by Booth.

Nearby is the smallest book
in the world, containing the poems of
Edgar Guest, a book in a bottle that would
fit in Lincoln’s mole, and the entire engraved
plate collection of Audubon, a miracle itself,
reminding one that Lincoln once shot a wild
turkey through a crack in the cabin wall.
“Who knows what lie they will buy,” Booth
thundered. One man’s president is another
man’s emperor.

Audubon never painted
a penguin; and Lincoln and Darwin were born
on the same day, on opposite sides of a dream.
Outside is a totem pole made of light, beaming
its one pure eye into space. With a wink, Lincoln
charmed Grant into silence, and Darwin stood,
staring God down, both refusing to blink.

*Originally published in the Colorado Review. Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Keith Flynn (www.keithflynn.net) is the author of seven books, including five collections of poetry: The Talking Drum (1991), The Book of Monsters (1994), The Lost Sea (2000), The Golden Ratio (Iris Press, 2007), Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press, 2013), and a collection of essays, entitled The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing (Writer’s Digest Books, 2007). His latest book is a collaboration with photographer Charter Weeks, entitled Prosperity Gospel: Portraits of the Great Recession. From 1984-1999, he was lyricist and lead singer for the nationally acclaimed rock band, The Crystal Zoo, which produced three albums: Swimming Through Lake Eerie (1992), Pouch (1996), and the spoken-word and music compilation, Nervous Splendor (2003). He is currently touring with a supporting combo, The Holy Men, whose album, LIVE at Diana Wortham Theatre, was released in 2011. His award-winning poetry and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies around the world, including The American Literary Review, The Colorado Review, Poetry Wales, The Cuirt Journal (Ireland), Takahe (New Zealand), Poetry East, The Southern Poetry Review, Margie, Rattle, Shenandoah, Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, Crazyhorse, and many others. He has been awarded the Sandburg Prize for poetry, a NC Literary Fellowship, the ASCAP Emerging Songwriter Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award and was twice named the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for NC. Flynn is founder and managing editor of The Asheville Poetry Review, which began publishing in 1994. For more information, please visit: www.ashevillepoetryreview.com.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License
Abraham Lincoln memorial by Greg Skidmore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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About Tomi Wiley (38 Articles)
Tomi L. Wiley is the Poetry and Short Fiction Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee.com. She has written and edited for media including Southern Living and Oxford American magazines, has been published in the literary anthologies Milk & Ink: a Mosaic of Motherhood, Telling Tales, Maypop and the Southeast Review, has coordinated panels for the Southern Festival of Books, spoken on the creative writing process at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a past president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. She lives in Knoxville, where she is writing her first novel with the help of lots of wine, goat cheese and the Barefoot Contessa.

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