Cartoon Physics, part 1

Children under, say, ten, shouldn’t know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,

that if a man draws a door on a rock
only he can pass through it.
Anyone else who tries

will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds
should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,
ships going down—earthbound, tangible

disasters, arenas

where they can be heroes. You can run
back into a burning house, sinking ships

have lifeboats, the trucks will come
with their ladders, if you jump

you will be saved. A child

places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,
& drives across a city of sand. She knows

the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn

that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall

until he notices his mistake.

– Nick Flynn


A wryly amusing look at a child’s view of physics – but made sharply poignant and perhaps even a little unsettling by the end because of the choice of potential disaster. It starts relatively innocuously and impersonally with an expanding universe and travelling through solid objects, and works its way through burning houses, car wrecks and sinking ships, eventually getting to the extremely personal incidents of being shark-feed and falling off a cliff.

Nick Flynn, from what I’ve read seems to be someone who’s seen quite a bit, and the hints of darkness ring true.

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