Patrick Donnelly

Four Teachers

Page Swift taught me singing.

Sheikh Din, the five-times daily prayer.

Wolfe Lowenthal, the Yang style.

And one other, fons et origo, primal,
every thread leading back from today
to what I received, poured over me,
into me, given to me while others paid,
sometimes with the delight (and, how sad,
pride) of having been called to a true path,
sometimes burning me, caustic, me leaving
in apprentice tears, sometimes misnaming
but nevertheless locating a fault, forcing
me to strain against temperament, against
my own nature, refusing to do for me
what I must do for myself—even after
I acquired some mastery with the flavors
of up/down, charm/strange, top/bottom, etc.—
with every encounter jerking me back
to a beginning of not-knowing, and always
private, guarded, spiny, never touching,
shaming any hint of gossip—which I only
repeated because I pined to belong to
such that even after decades I don’t dare
write the name, what I studied, or even
reveal his gender—

O hell.
Mountains and hills

fall on me.

and thorn, bewilder my tracks.
Spring from the clay,

acacia, in front of the cave
where I go to ground.

Spider, pity me
and spin a veil across.

Emergency, emergency.
Hide me from my mouth,

my own bad mouth, which
from remote ages before

I was born into this world,
I had been warned about.

The New Garment

           Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness of a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is
          a sort of mental catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of matters
          intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached a limit of stability and the whole
          edifice has come tumbling to the ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full
          survey. … Satori comes upon a man unawares, when he feels that he has exhausted his
          whole being. Religiously, it is a new birth; intellectually, it is the acquiring of a new
          viewpoint. The world now appears as if dressed in a new garment.

                        — D. T. Suzuki

Did you know that when Marilyn Monroe
married Arthur Miller she had no veil
to match her dress, which was a color
the press would call sand or fawn,
so she dyed one, can you imagine,
in a bowl of coffee.

The Worship of Relics

            Dickinson’s desk, of cherry and pine, 44.4 cm. by 44.4 cm. by 66.6 cm.,   
            having a single drawer with a brass pull

Don’t you see you did wrong, pilgrim?
Went too far, when you sang the old hymn

all soft so the docent wouldn’t hear

Behold the wood of the cross,
on which hung the savior of the world.

Patrick Donnelly                            

Patrick Donnelly is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Little-Known Operas (Four Way Books, 2019) and the forthcoming Willow Hammer (Four Way Books, spring 2025). His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Georgia Reveiw, Slate, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Massachusetts Review, and many other journals. With his spouse Stephen D. Miller, he translates classical Japanese poetry and drama. His awards include a U.S./Japan Creative Artists Program Award, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, and a 2018 Amy Clampitt Residency Award. He is director of the annual Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place, Robert Frost’s old homestead in Franconia, NH, now a center for poetry and the arts. More at