Lenontia Flynn’s third collection, Profit and Loss, is in three parts – the first part is based on the idea of rooms or houses holding our histories – specifically family histories, with incredibly personal treatments of her father’s advancing Alzheimers (“this bone-dry wasteland where the nouns have died”), her uncle’s schizophrenia, and the death of her aunt when she was a child. The second part a long poem inspired by Auden’s ‘Letter to Lord Byron’, and the third is a kind of taking stock of the personal – reflecting the “Profit and loss” idea evoked in the collection’s title. This is where one particularly lovely image can be found: “You make your way, still wobbly and astonishing, / over the language’s uneven ground”.
I’m sharing a poem which refers to some of the ideas about motherhood that I’ve been exploring in my perhaps never to be completed motherhood vs parenthood vs fatherhood series.
There’s Birds In My Story
On the orange and brown linoleum lining the playroom
my infant self is playing with (that’s right) dolls.
A wave of salt tenderness picks up my mum where she stands,
carries her off with a lurch to some far, giddy shore
then sets her back on her feet when I ask can she whistle.
Since my mother fell down the invisible rabbit hole
(through the isolation, hysterics and Old Wives Tales)
into stay-at-home motherhood, things have been pretty weird.
She regards for a beat her fat second youngest child,
then purses her lips: ‘Whee-whee, whee-whee, whee-whee.
’Whee-whee, whee-whee, whee-whee, whee-whee, whee-whee.’
The terms in the job description clearly state
that when a small child requests whistling, you oblige.
And my epic response, when she stops to enquire just why:
Keep whistling, mummy, there’s birds in my story.
Since my mother stepped through the invisible looking glass
into full-time mum-dom, each day some current frets
at her sense of self – but yes! she thinks, there are birds!
Wheeling inland, all whoops and bright hungry eyes
in the noon light, over the estuary, flying lighter than sparks.
View the intro/roundup.