Patrick Donnelly

Which Makes Me, I Guess, the Muddy Colorado
June 9, 2012 Donnelly Patrick

Which Makes Me, I Guess, The Muddy Colorado

 …carved with the curious legend of my youth…

                                     — Stanley Kunitz


What we learn from most pornography is

that a great many primates so professionally beautiful

as to make one’s teeth ache

have had congress with a great many other such primates,

though only a few seemed really that into it.


What only a specialized, expensive or amateur category of porn

reveals is that occasionally one of the immortals will,

as in Cavafy’s poem, condescend to love up

an ordinary person. Even the Grand Canyon

was full before it was empty: over the eons


many breathtaking, sometimes medicated concavities

have been filled to overspilling by unexceptional convexities

who just happened to lean into the right gloaming, urinous doorway

at a lucky small hour of the night. Even I,

who about 1981 heard a boy I loved at summer camp in Maine


tell a girl, when he thought I was asleep, that he might have loved me

            except that I was not good looking—I, even I, in time

came to have such regular traffic with gods lovelier than he

as to shake my teeth all but loose. Was this because

I got better looking, or just that even the gods’ hungers


have their reasons que la raison ne connaît pas? Whatever.

This fluid exchange lasted so many years that

even what was often over-praised as “hard as rock”

wore down by degrees to the deep ditch you see

before you. (I began tall but was brought both low and deep.)


Though I don’t recommend

the vulgar glass overlook, still, camerado,

if you step to the edge of this

strange history, I promise you’ll thrill

to the vast, acrophobic layers of emptiness—


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). With his spouse Stephen D. Miller, he translates classical Japanese poetry and drama. He is director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place, Robert Frost’s old homestead in Franconia, NH, now a center for poetry and the arts. More at