Donald Revell

February 20, 2023 Revell Donald



I died with them while they were alive.
Mounds of kilowatt hours
And sobbing aspiration pushed themselves
Into the picture, but the picture
Wouldn’t change. They were alive. They were young.
All the marriages endured the other
Marriages, as cedar forests endure
Snow falling upon the nearby ocean.
Fool weds Cordelia. Antony writes
Apocrypha in rainy Egypt.
Please think again. Tragedy is a poor
Exchange for mystery, an abandonment
Compounded with human frailty,
Forgetting laws by which the living
Die into one another. In the fullness
Of time—time is always overflowing
The brown bowls, the berry-brown bowls
Of a boy’s eyes, a girl’s soiled cuticles—
Reunion supplants reason with a smile.
Hanged off-stage, which is nowhere,
Fool and Cordelia married. Lear is their offspring,
Figlio del tuo figlia.
Please think again. The sword menaces Antony.
He must survive this time, even as time
Overflows with death, that imperial
Ape unfamiliar with dying. You and I
Were abandoned into this world, same
As everyone. And I imagine
It’s only too easy to take the tragic
View, as bad actors flashing kilowatt
Nonsense back at oblivion. I must
Think again. Cordelia’s youth and candor
Are a snowfall accumulating
On the ocean surface, a white isthmus
Between life and the afterlife. Antony’s
Happiness is almost terrifying.
I look at the stars and see fools in love.
Their weddings fill the sky with
Absolute reunion. A boy’s eyes,
A girl’s dirty fingernails, these are
Comedians inside constellations.

Donald Revell is the author of sixteen collections of poetry, most recently of White Campion (2021) and The English Boat (2018), both from Alice James Books. Revell has also published six volumes of translations from the French, including Apollinaire’s Alcools, Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, Laforgue’s Last Verses, and Verlaine’s Songs without Words. His critical writings have been collected as: Sudden Eden: EssaysEssay: A Critical Memoir; The Art of Attention; and Invisible Green: Selected Prose. Winner of the PEN USA Translation Award and two-time winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry, he has also won the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize and is a former Fellow of the Ingram Merrill and Guggenheim Foundations. Additionally, he has twice been awarded Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Having previously taught at the Universities of Alabama, Denver, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Utah, Donald Revell is currently a Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.