Poetry from Ryan Flanagan

No One Wears Orange Except the Accused and Pumpkins


Who are you to judge me?

he asked incredulously.


The presiding judge over the district court,

the judge answered.


His lawyer stared at him.

He knew his lawyer.


And with formalities over,

it was back to the business

of retribution.


Factory Direct


Some crazy shot Warhol

so we had to open our own

soup cans.


And I give him credit.

He always knew the hospital

would kill him

and it did.


Intuition is a powerful monkey.

Even if you’re from Pittsburgh.


I guess that Blow Job movie

made them really mad.


But that is the chance you take

with your art.


Everyone’s a critic.

And some of them

are armed.


Mussolini Piñatas Strung Up At Every Birthday Party


The latest issue has nothing to do with any of my issues, so I guess I’m in the clearing like Bambi’s mom right before the lead poisoning.  Walt Disney was a fascist.  Henry Ford had his cars and Disney had his drawings and somewhere in the middle of that the war effort was born.  Rid the world of Fascism so it only exists in America.  Mussolini piñatas strung up at every birthday party.  Hold the Anzio ridge like your cock in your hand.  I don’t know if Patton ever said that, but he stopped to piss in the Rhine on his way to Berlin so it seems like something he would say.  Some men are just born hard as stale bread.  And when they get left behind, the rollercoaster of history has decided they are not tall enough to take this ride.  That the clown face of the present circus will be funnier without them.  And that is when you start to find bodies in the trunk like mob war tire irons.  Duct tape over their mouths as though they were protesting something right before they died.  And the women at the coin laundry are all strippers from the gentleman’s club next door.  I can tell by the way they all smell their thongs for semen.  Plus I know many of them because they all buy drugs off this guy I work with.  He sells drugs to everyone at work as well.  The only time I ever smoked crack was on him.  I made everything smell like plasticine.  The dancers really need him.  You would think they would have many options, but they ask after him all the time.  I tell them I will pass word along and don’t.  It is another of my little white lies.  Which reminds me, the Americans were the first in space because they got to all the Nazi scientists first.  The Russians lost out and the Americans had a space program.  Google Wernher von Braun if you don’t believe me.  He is just the beginning.  Things have come so far now that they are not even things anymore.  Just spectres of shadows that used to be walls.  Vacuum salesmen in the ground.  Plastic oceans looking to bottle their last water.  CTRL ALT DEL and the King of Siam.



I Saw You From Behind


The way your knife glistened under tricky oil lamps

orderly sheep dog legs one after the other

walking a false direction out of clumsy shoes

and a sly Turkish crescent slashing through

dark skies of hiding, you must have seen it,

that throaty sulphur smell of new blood against the pavement

the absent way we spit into corners, never once

considering the spindly days of spiders

and when you turned down the alley I figured

I’d been made, that death was waiting behind a dumpster

with ulcers; it was sudden enough that I kept walking

behind someone else completely, following them into a store

that sold powdered milk and

expired adhesives.




I can’t get a woman, he whined.

That’s because you want a woman,

I said.

You want a woman, and they can tell.

It’s when you don’t want a woman,

that’s when you will find yourself with too many.

That doesn’t sound like a problem, he said.

It is, I said.

He looked at me for a moment as if he were

trying to decipher some long lost code.

You’re full of shit, he said.

Probably, I said, but I don’t see a woman

with you.

What do you know, he scoffed,

there’s no women with you.

I shrugged my shoulders.

I must want a woman then.


Kafka’s Last Known Bug


Rip the mouth away from the confession.

Tear lips off and bury them in radioactive gardens.

Cut the tongue out and sell it to the local butchers:


slash      rip            tear

cut                  rip          silence


Agreement is a broken nose away.

Separate the confession from the penmanship:


power     out       power


The truth is made in factories

outsourced to poor brown India:


slash          cut              power

slice      accuse


Kafka’s last known bug:


fear       fear          fear


guilty in absentia

accused of everything.



Bass Pro Shops


are offering free photos

with the Easter Bunny through

the month of April.


They also advertise that they are

a “right to carry” affiliate

and that you can carry firearms

in their stores, you just can’t

conceal them.


Which makes me wonder

if the Easter Bunny is packing.


Nothing would surprise me.

This is a redneck mecca.

When the wife and I were in Memphis,

the black tour guy dropped us off

at a Bass Pro Shop figuring that is what

white people like to do.


And we were good Canadians and said nothing.

Wondering what the hell we were supposed

to do for an hour.


They sold a lot of guns, I remember that.

And all-terrain vehicles painted up

in camo with gun racks

on the back.


I didn’t see the Easter Bunny,

so it probably wasn’t his time of year.


What a strange way to live

and to die.


Calling ducks

as if on an old rotary



Books you always read,

and loves you will never

get to.




Nothing Good Ever Came From Long Island


Don’t say nothing good ever came from Long Island.

Lou Reed came from Long Island,

although he became New York.

Along with Andy Warhol, Frank O’Hara, Hebert Selby

and the New York Dolls.

And Times Square before they cleaned it up.

Ginsberg, Burroughs and the boys celebrating the bomb

instead of the peace.


That is my New York.

You can have the rest of it.

Especially the Empire State building.

That thing is tall as tales

and doesn’t even play




Berthing Assistant


It is dark by the time we arrive.

Sitting in a plane on the tarmac

at Pearson International.

The pilot announcing over the PA

that we have arrived early

and that there is no grounds crew

present to help berth the plane.

He has notified the tower,

and we are just waiting.

I am in the window seat back,

because the wife had it on the way down.

Most democratic of us, I know.

It takes about twenty minutes for a vehicle

to speed up and for some kid with glowing

orange wands to direct the plane.

By the time we get off, we have to rush

to the other side of the airport.

We have a connector flight up north

to make.


A forty-five minute jumper

into the dark Canadian




Face Fronds


(Buffy Sainte Marie never cussed out

a newly waxed floor)


I kept my secret


(daddy’s ragamuffin

in the melon core)


I kept my secret


(kinda right in a roundabout way)


I kept my secret

I kept my secret


(face fronds for eyebrows with bushiness

lost to palms)


I kept my secret

from ev


Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle though his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Synchronized Chaos, Literary Yard, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.