Three Poems by Caitlin Grace McDonnell




(mostly fragments from the New Yorker June 27, 2005)

Conformity is right for you, ask
your advisor, only a minute walk
from neveragainland. A sharp
potentially uncontrollable increase
in threat. This is modernism in both
thought and action. This is like moving
to Munich. Who is going to take care
of you. Maybe he's protecting a world
he loves from a world he hasn't had time
to mend. Nothing is more valuable than
leaving a good history behind.
No such luck. Life is totally about losing
everything. It's always perilous to predict
the end. For instance--pomegranate flowers,
oversized and blood red, turn upward.
Manuscripts in bookstores, libraries,
countless watercolors in her studio
on the second floor. I suppose it was
a strange childhood, but it defined
their lives. The wound feels like a great
inflamed jewel glowing in the dark.
I did not accuse a single angel.
Without psychosexual drama, without
well, getting fucked, she might just grow
a beard. He waits for more, but there is no
more. A warm, steamy rain comes next.


It is time to drown the girl.
The one folded           to a passport in your pocket,      sewn

in your blue dress,     legs flung open like a forked
          as she rides your shoulders.
Remember the shoreline and pay your respects.
Know that if you allow your torso
         to be drummed absentmindedly
in a dorm room, in the 80’s, California
morning,      it is still yours     hear the tinny music
          beneath the skin.
Use every currency while its at your disposal
but keep the door          to your room full of bees
           sealed with a gold stamp.
Remember how you grew a body
by looking at the backs of eyelids      and only show the
           who make it to Eldorado
the society of chairs
made of clean, red stones.
Remember the view from above.      If you find yourself
in Athens,
          full moon, having climbed the acropolis,
confronted with a fenced-in barking dog,
          remember what the monk said
regarding the center of things;
          how you’re always at it.
The small, seemingly misguided
voices of authority you find in dreams           desire
          Generally, you know.     Whenever the question is go
or don’t go, jump or don’t jump,
          the answer is easy.         When the question’s manifold,

           savor the discomfort,     it’s just the tireless
and always hopeful ivy of your mind seeking other
It is time to lay down your scrolls.     To open your
and clear your jaw of its pursed mantra.
           Time to let yourself forget.       The way a child
to read by remembering a voice on the edge of a bed
and its relation to the          great green room of the
The way you say amour     and name another history
than love and the way a           body learns another body
          carves it like soap          in the shape of a c,
facing inward.
Others will regard you as a clean pond     they’ll see
          your soliloquy     straight into their own selves
They may miss the girl.
           Have compassion, be patient, grant


The night’s an ink spill and my womb’s an envelope.
Drive around and around yourself in a red car.  

Never trust a man who can always get it up.
The clock insists and the trees lean in like aunts.  

Red wine costs me 3 dollars and 33 cents.
That man and I, we got on like a house on fire.  

Across town, he sits and regards a deep blue screen.
Happy are those who have what they once longed for.  

The child upstairs declares his bright existence.
The scent of meat wafts through the dark backyards.  

And you, Caitlin, who do you ask to find who you are
As this night winds around you like a sorry train.