“When in the Uterine Empyrean They Told Me”

Listen to Patrick Donnelly read this poem.

When in the uterine empyrean they told me

of love, they named it a sickness, fever, impediment
to enlightenment
. Some swore it could make you wail
over hills of hell in a long black veil, defenestrate

yourself in a Second Empire gown, or stand
wringing-wet at the intersection with a cup and a sign

There were a few, humiliated and exalted, who rose
like comets in yellowy tiers, to sing in Provençal
of the Name, the Name, the same longing Name.

But others warned that whom He loves, He corrects,
of “friendship with benefits,” balcony scenes, mad scenes
in all-white restaurants, of the turned back in bed.

But when they said I could remain behind
if I chose, like an unlit lamp,
sounding my brass and tinkling my cymbal,

I didn’t think, I seized
the bloody flag of my attachments
and tore down the tunnel of what I couldn’t know

was my millionth birth.