Patrick Donnelly's collection of poems, THE CHARGE, was published by from
Ausable Press in fall 2003.
He is an Associate Editor at Four Way Books, and completed his MFA at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where he was recipient of the Larry Levis Scholarship. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Yale Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Rattapallax, The Marlboro
Review, Puerto del Sol, Beloit Poetry Journal, Barrow Street, Heliotrope, and elsewhere. He received a Bread Loaf scholarship in 2003, and grants from the PEN Fund for Writers in 2000 and 2001. He is a curator of the reading series at the Ear Inn in Greenwich Village, and Program Assistant of Readings on the Bowery, sponsored by Four Way Books at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
"Finding Paul Monette, Losing Him," and "After a long time away" appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal.
"Baba," and "How the Age of Iron Turned to Gold" appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review.
Four Poems by Patrick Donnelly
FINDING PAUL MONETTE, LOSING HIM
It's just two days since I read you
two days since your Elegies for Rog grabbed me
in the stacks at the Brooklyn branch
grief eating through the binding like dragon blood
dripping through four stone floors
into the charming restaurant in the basement
I checked you out and brought you home
so I could love you and pity him in private
and cry for him and you and myself
I never burned up grief or anger with such song
never came within two bow-lengths of the paradise
of men's hearts open to one another
I'll check you out again and again
I think I'll steal you
I don't want to release you back to circulation
I study your picture on the sleeve for signs of sickness
search the flyleaf for year of publication
could you have survived 1987
so long ago dangerous year
to be a sick fag in America
In the cafe at the gay bookstore
I'm afraid to ask Do you know Monette
Did he make it The boys are so young
thumbing through pages of naked men
putting them back dogeared The boy
behind the counter doesn't read poetry
I'm afraid of hope as I walk
to the back of the store PLEASE BE ALIVE
PLEASE BE among the M's I run my hand
along the spines Maupin McClatchy Melville
until it rests on yours
I tear you open the suspense killing me
please please be living with the dogs
in the canyons somewhere north of Malibu
writing every day doing well on the new drugs
sleeping like spoons with a guy named
Peter Kenneth Michael or Gustavo
Your picture is harder thinner
face lined eyelids sagging "novelist poet essayist
AIDS activist who died"
You're gone then
I've made it to the future a few years further
but who knows if I'll reach your forty-nine
why bother reading your book anymore
what difference do poems make or love
So this is your last face a fox and rabbit kissing
even dead your name earns a "face-out"
guarantees those big sales
who gets the money now
YOU JERK FUCK YOU
ridiculous to die so close to a cure
renders you me us absurd
how quaint to die of this they'll think in 2030
how nostalgically sepia-toned and old-timey
like dying of the flu for godssake or the clap
like talking on a windup telephone or
buying ice for the icebox
On the Net later
I cruise a guy who says he knew you
when you tried to live and love again with Winston
I'm hungry to hear anything about you
but he interrupts with a reflection of his cock
in a hand mirror in a garden of red hibiscus
so for a moment I almost easily forget my love
my love of two days
two days in which you were born loved wrote grieved died
Oh God in whom you never for one moment believed
will I still have time
AFTER A LONG TIME AWAY
Everything is glad of me.
The radio plays only flutes.
My key fits locks all over town,
turns them over and over,
churches open their double doors,
the library has stacked all the books
in my favorite order. My throat
starts singing up and up.
Plants think up fresh leaves,
even the dust on the shelves
has got a new pair of shoes,
and waxy yellow peppers jump in my pots,
cook cheaply into a thick glee.
Trucks kindly do not grind my house apart;
the checks I write clear quietly and completely
in and out of the twilight, water-cool
vaults of my blue marble bank.
And death is just a word,
like doorjamb, magpie,
that twirls and worries gently.
Baba feeds me with his own hand:
the night my friend died
he pressed dark chocolate
into a macaroon, and the sweetness
cut the pain; another time
he showed me how to fry
black mustard seed in ghee,
spooned silky dhal between my lips
with one raised eyebrow:
"Enough salt? Enough cumin?"
The day he gave me his hand
Baba wore a robe the color of mint.
Sometimes he ignores me for weeks,
then comes to me in dreams
riding a tractor or sitting on a deerskin.
Baba has three small moles
on the left side of his face.
When he prays, we see
the bottom of his socks are dirty.
He plays a blues lick on his '66 Fender;
in the dark his glasses glint and hide his eyes.
He says if you're very quiet
you can hear a sound inside
like crickets singing, then sleeps
with his head in my lap.
Baba shouts at us to stay awake,
says we can sleep when we're dead,
he rocks back and forth when he chants,
sends his wives around
to splash us with rosewater.
Baba gives me his hats
he moves sick people away from me
he drives a red pickup
he gave me five hundred dollars
he gave me a new name.
Baba disappears into a photo booth at the airport,
reappears to give me
a small version of his face.
He cut all his hair off, then he grew it again,
he wears no coat when it's cold.
Baba passes me in the coffeehouse, writes
at the top of my letter, Bismillah, since
Baba does everything in God's name.
When he rolls a smoke
on a picnic table in the moonlight,
watching trains go from Chicago
to New Orleans and back again,
a circle always gathers
to ask the hard questions:
what about abortion, what about gay people,
what happens when you die?
In the silence before he answers
I know the stories about Jesus are true:
but Baba, Baba, I can hardly keep up
my heart runs after you
with my soul in its hands.
HOW THE AGE OF IRON TURNED TO GOLD
My death makes her way to me
carrying green leaves.
I hear my prayer coming
behind illness, romantic noise,
urgent telephone messages,
alchemical lab results,
like a brook weaving
Water knows the way,
it isn't lost.
My teacher comes to me
by the western gates,
her eyes gone violet
as the peal of a bell
as she bends to gather
all her tender puppies by the neck.