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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 11, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I wrote the first three stanzas of ‘The Endless’ in my head while floating on my back with my eyes closed under the sun over Long Island Sound. I felt invincible. I left the water with the sense that the poem would end up taking off in an eco-theological direction, probably concluding with an indictment of human greed and destructiveness (or something like that). Later that night, when I started typing it up, the poem turned out to have other ambitions for itself, so I stepped out of the way and let it go where it wanted to.”
—Timothy Donnelly

The Endless

I saw a yellow butterfly
flying
in my opinion
the wrong way, flying across
the sound
to Connecticut

I saw a cormorant
oily-looking
flying
close to the sea’s surface
precisely
as I floated on it on

my back in
the attitude of the crucifixion
minerals in my body
in
conversation with
the minerals of the sea

about the sun
how can I possibly
add
to what’s already been said
so well
by the ancients

and said with
an austerity I’ll never
know
it is an honor to take
a backseat to the ancients
who knew how

I was a fat white fish
dissolving
under the sold-out stadium sun
like a god
but like a god
I could live through anything.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Timothy Donnelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Timothy Donnelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Timothy Donnelly

Timothy Donnelly

Donnelly's work has been widely praised. Jorie Graham has remarked that his poetry is "musically brilliant and articulate"

by this poet

poem
Driver, please. Let's slow things down. I can't endure 
the speed you favor, here where the air's electric 
hands keep charging everything, a blur of matter fogs the window 
and my mind to rub it. Don't look now, but the vast
majority of chimpanzees on the road's soft shoulder can't 
determine: Which fascinates
poem

 

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2
poem
Roll back the stone from the sepulchre's mouth!
I sense disturbance deep within, as if some sorcery

had shocked the occupant's hand alive again, back
to compose a document in calligraphy so dragonish

that a single misstep made it necessary to stop
right then and there and tear the botched draft up,

begin