Fellow Scout who could climb and touch 
the gold ball at the top of the flagpole, 
and do math three grades ahead 
under his crewcut. I need a calculator 
to figure how long since I spoke his name.
How long since I offered my own blue
neckerchief to wipe his always runny nose.
But last night in smoke, steam, and rain
beside a wrecked train I told him how happy 
I felt in the igloo we’d built, how handsome 
a cub he’d been crawling on all fours
up the twilit tunnel to me. In a hoarse 
whisper and never looking at his face.

Copyright © 2023 by Patrick Donnelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

            Heaven hunts round for those that find itself below, and then it snatches.
                        —Emily Dickinson

I wind
the sheet of elegy

while he's still alive, I can't help it,
I follow his breath while he sleeps,

greet each coming and going,
with an Ave.
                  (Because of how
the quick
become the dead.)

But right now he's showering
with a gospel choir, radio

half on and half off that station.
And today's heaven is half hell,

half whole, half hurt,
hunting every naked thing

with the same harsh delight.

From Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin by Patrick Donnelly. Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Donnelly. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.