Weekly Poem: Dan Chiasson reads ‘The Flume’

BY artsdesk  August 18, 2014 at 3:03 PM EST

Listen to Dan Chiasson read “The Flume” from his new collection “Bicentennial.”

The Flume

Here we go up again, up again, the mountain
The men who have assembled it for years
Assembled yesterday, so that you and I

Headed who knows where together, but
Headed there together, will see
From the top the bottom, from the bottom the top,

Then feel the inside-outside-all-over-nowhere
My God I Am Going to Die, Not Someday, Now
Sensation that, once we plateau, feels silly,

Since when were we safer than when we sought
The danger that when it subsided returned
Us to the dangers it had blotted out?

There are no fears, here at the start:
This is when, the book just opened,
Knowing you will one day know the story

You don’t know yet changes the story
You are getting to know, the way we know
Before you know what anything means it means

Something: a fireworks display, the birthday
Of the Country; that’s me; my uncle and I
Are racing through the past on the Python,

Which men assembled absentmindedly that day
And, so you could visit it with me,
I assembled here again inside my memory;

Now, when you remember how things were
Today, you will also remember yourself
Looking forward to yourself looking back

A looking back that, here in your past,
You do already, you already say
About what happened yesterday, remember when…?

–The future doing its usual loop-de-loop,
The sons all turning into fathers
Until the absentminded men take the ride down.

Photo of Dan Chaisson by Nicholas Chaisson

Photo of Dan Chiasson by Nicholas Chiasson

Dan Chiasson has published four books of poetry, including “Where’s the Moon, There’s the Moon” and “Natural History.” “Bicentennial” is his most recent collection. Chiasson is also a critic. He reviews poetry for the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review and has published one book of criticism, “One Kind of Everything: Poem and Person in Contemporary America.” A recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award, a Pushcart Prize and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Chiasson teaches at Wellesly College.