Nick Flynn
Father, Insect

      After her

bath, as a way to apologize for all


my imperfections, I remind my

daughter, You know, before you were


born, I was not


a father. She takes this in

silently, moving a tiny blue elephant across


the carpet. If you weren’t a father, she

eventually asks, then what were you—


a bug? We’d been looking at pictures

of cavemen, talking


about evolution, about where we

came from, about all those


who came before—Are they us?

she asks. I


told her about the carbon in her

pencil, about hydrogen bonding


with oxygen, about bacteria with

only one thought in their tiny




used her finger to write it all out

in the air, creating each


word as I spoke it. When

did want become more


than hunger, when


did need become more

than shadow? Ecclesiastes warns


about the making


of books, of which there is no end,

this chain of meaning, this


offering—the book we both will write

today into forever.

Found In Volume 43, No. 03
Read Issue
  • nickflynn
Nick Flynn
About the Author

Nick Flynn is a professor on the creative writing faculty of the University of Houston. In previous incarnations he has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a case-worker with homeless adults. His most recent book is The Reenactments  (Norton, 2013); his next book, My Feelings, is forthcoming (Graywolf, 2015).