Poems by Patrick Donnelly

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  • Jesus said to me Did you mean

    By Patrick Donnelly

    to draw some moral
    from your own life, how you found love

    so late? How though you weren’t patient,
    weren’t kind, in pursuit were ruthless,

    it was given to you anyway? Though
    that story’s not done, not proven,

    you have some wisdom to share
    with the loveless now,

    do you,
    something they should or shouldn’t do?

    The gay boy, the raped girl, the libeled widow
    (Jesus now resting his abraded hand on the book)?

    Go ahead then, speak.
    Promise them something.


    From JESUS SAID, a poem sequence. Originally published in American Poetry Review and Mudlark. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

    • I told Jesus When I was afraid

      By Patrick Donnelly

      as a child, I looked for pictures of you in the encyclopedia and circled them around my bed.

      Jesus said, I remember Giotto, Cimabue, Fra Angelico. I remember the bells as Duccio’s Maestà was carried into the cathedral.

      I told Jesus, I asked you to lift my gayness from me, laid down on my face in front of the altar at All Saint’s Church on West Fort Street in Detroit. I was nineteen, it was 1975, midnight and the tiles were cold.

      Jesus said, I remember asking you Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?

      I told Jesus, for thirty years I asked you to send me someone to love, and then Stephen came and we married, but we were old, so I begged you, keep us alive, let us live a little longer.

      Jesus said, I remember I remember I remember the poem of you
      that I sent to the empress with a branch of flowering.


      From JESUS SAID, a poem sequence. Originally published in American Poetry Review. Used
with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

      • When in the Uterine Empyrean They Told Me

        By Patrick Donnelly

        When in the uterine empyrean they told me

        of love, they named it a sickness, fever, impediment
        to enlightenment. Some swore it could make you wail
        over hills of hell in a long black veil, defenestrate

        yourself in a Second Empire gown, or stand
        wringing-wet at the intersection with a cup and a sign
        reading COMFORT ME WITH APPLES.

        There were a few, humiliated and exalted, who rose
        like comets in yellowy tiers, to sing in Provençal
        of the Name, the Name, the same longing Name.

        But others warned that whom He loves, He corrects,
        of “friendship with benefits,” balcony scenes, mad scenes
        in all-white restaurants, of the turned back in bed.

        But when they said I could remain behind
        if I chose, like an unlit lamp,
        sounding my brass and tinkling my cymbal,

        I didn’t think, I seized
        the bloody flag of my attachments
        and tore down the tunnel of what I couldn’t know

        was my millionth birth.


        Originally published in Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2012). Used
 with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

        • Honey

          By Patrick Donnelly

                   tu che il zucchero porti in mezzo al core

          –Lorenzo da Ponte, Don Giovanni

          Funny, how often in a long marriage the word honey
          gets shouted as warning, for instance this morning

          when he asked to keep a piss bottle by the side of the bed.

          When he called for a ride because he was drunk,
          when he mislaid the gift you gave.

          How often honey as rebuke, only sometimes in irony,

          while you yourself behave, you think,
          like those who ladle soup for the poor.

          When he blacked out with a kidney stone

          and had to be lifted, had to be helped
          to bathe for a month,

          you lowering him

          like a fireman, even the water

          you poured hurting his white skin,
          even the soap.

          Gold the bees struggled to gather and guard,

          which while you were courting
          from under your Brooklyn balcony

          he swore in a little age-of-enlightenment song

          your mouth was sweeter than.
          (His white shirt as he mounted

          the steps, white shirt

          soon on the floor.)
          When he didn’t make enough money, when

          you had to carry him. Oh, wait,

          the other faults—venial—were his, but it was you
          who made no money, your deadweight

          over his shoulders for years

          while you wrote what you wrote. Yet still
          you bark at him the name of the bee’s treasure,

          bellow honey, sometimes smothering, almost shaming

          his mouth’s sweet air, which swore
          that first, famous night how

          you “carry sugar in the middle of your heart.”


          Originally published in The Cimarron Review. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

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