Keith Flynn

Tranquility & Tremolo
May 19, 2016 Flynn Keith

Tranquility & Tremolo


Where song is, fire begins, tightens,

then leaps to scream with such ease

that every awkward thing is quickly consumed.


We are upended by the creaks and turns of language,

and the truth is not uplifting, though the mod historians

idolize the facts just enough to reduce their significance.


You can’t find the right style to defeat vulgarity;

or stage manage a grizzly bear. Besides, says the famous

novelist, evil has its own reveille, and I never compart-


mentalize, because you rent the fabric of the narrative

that way and all these boxes of chaos, contained in

closets, cosseted by doors and boards, does not


allow the connective tissue to nest its webbing

in your life. But poets are fractured and unfulfilled,

walking on the fragments of language like a child


measuring the steps upon rocks across a river.

The camera lens is capable of great destruction,

and that recognition is what caused you to leave


your body from the first charge of a fragrance,

that smell and memory are connected in the brain,

your mother’s brownies, a new car, a nearby skunk,


fresh cut lawn, a rotting corpse, and every lover who

attracted you, with their invisible chemicals filling

your senses, and when that smell glitters, the entire body


is fluorescent and wedded to that glowing instance.

The cripple is interested in shoes and smells leather

everywhere. A burning tire rolls past in a black night


and bounces against an unseen wall. Flames fly off

like orchid petals. Buttoned tight, the words strain

against their cuffs like beads on a shaken abacus,


moving without purpose on an iron track,

until a train appears and all the meaning stands,

emerging from the smoke of garbled intentions,


its one bright lamp slicing through the polluted

darkness and the poem is that beam, long perfected

and lethal, like a slinky the size of a boa made of steel.

Keith Flynn ( is the award-winning author of eight books, including six collections of poetry: most recently Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press, 2013) and The Skin of Meaning (Red Hen Press, 2020), and two collections of essays, entitled The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory: How To Make Your Poetry Swing (Writer’s Digest Books, 2007), and  Prosperity Gospel: Portraits of the Great Recession (RedHawk Publications, 2021). 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). His latest album is Keith Flynn & The Holy Men, LIVE at Diana Wortham Theatre (2011). He is the Executive Director and producer of the TV and radio show, “LIVE at White Rock Hall,” ( and Animal Sounds Productions, both which create collaborations between writers and musicians in video and audio formats. 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, Five Points, Poetry East, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Poetics of American Song Lyrics, Writer’s Chronicle. The Cimarron Review, Rattle, Shenandoah, Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, Crazyhorse, and many others. He has been awarded the Sandburg Prize for poetry, a 2013 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.