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About this Poem 

“’Harbor (The Conversion)’ is a collaboration with Mischa Richter, a friend who I've been collaborating with for the past few years, often by writing poems in response to his photographs and films of Provincetown, which is his home and my adopted home (or one of them)—Mischa sent me his photograph, which is a still of a short film he made of a local pal (Paul Tasha) riding one of his horses in the bay, while leading another horse beside them. I combined this image with Carravagio's great painting ‘Saul's Conversion on the Road to Damascus’, which always reminds me of Paul.”
Nick Flynn

harbor (the conversion)

Nick Flynn, 1960

If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes

Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the darkness

A man finds ash & he makes it a man

A horse finds ash in a horse

It lifts us it holds us it breaks us again

Scatter him into the harbor

Copyright © 2013 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 1, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn was born in 1960 in Scituate, Massachusetts. He is the author of the poetry collections The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000).

by this poet

When you see us swarm — rustle of

wingbeat, collapsed air — your mind
tries to make us one, a common

intelligence, a single spirit un-
tethered. You imagine us merely
searching out the next

vessel, anything

that could contain us, as if the hive
were just another jar. You try

to hold the ending, this

Click images

Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the