I told Jesus When I was afraid
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 Maesta 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.
“I told Jesus When I was afraid” from Little-Known Operas © 2019 by Patrick Donnelly. Appears with the permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
Patrick Donnelly is the author of four books of poetry. Former poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts, Donnelly is director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place, and an associate editor of Poetry International. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Slate, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Yale Review, and many other journals. Donnelly’s translations with Stephen D. Miller of classical Japanese poetry were awarded the 2015-2016 Japan- U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. Donnelly’s other awards include a U.S./Japan Creative Artists Program Award, an Artist Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Amy Clampitt Residency Award. He lives outside of Northampton, Massachusetts.
The lush, lexically gorgeous and emotionally complex poems of Little-Known Operas guide us through the terrain of love, sex, same-sex marriage, illness, death, and art.
"Here is a Gospel According to Patrick Donnelly, a book of revelations of what it means to be human, to be hurt, to be awed, to be stunned by our world—and to find love late in life. It is a book of tenderness towards everyone who's been in pain, everyone who's been ill, everyone who's had a mother, loved music, everyone who's lived on this third planet from the sun."
"The poems in Little-Known Operas delight me with their wit, pathos, expertly executed confusion, and their sincere and exuberant wondering. When Jesus himself does the wondering— 'Jesus said, Will someone tell me, please, what pink grass is called?' —the mystery of creation is exponentially increased, and our poet is left standing in his own world, which turns out to be a galaxy of swirling reflexes."