Timothy Donnelly

The Human

In the interim I will find a way to feel at home with the animal
Aristotle in his Politics says nature made for politics

because alone among animals it enjoys the gift of speech.
Other animals have a voice to indicate what is pleasant,

what painful, and to relay it to each other, but true speech,
says Aristotle, takes things further, and is intended to make clear

what is beneficial, what harmful, what is good or bad,
and this among animals is peculiar to the human, who alone

enjoys perception of the just, which nature would never
provide without cause, he says, but does so that they might live

collectively, in communities, and not like those of the goat,
which seeks only what gives pleasure, and wanders

endlessly to avoid pain, but in settlements, vast cities
it takes politics to build, an effort extended across centuries

like bridges over waterways, their lengths reflected in the
flowing underneath them and up glass faces of towers the sun

illuminates with such intensity it feels like intention—
the will of what is to go on, to take things further, to adapt

parts of the body intended for breathing into a means to
force air into sounds, sounds into words, words into prayers of

thanks to the sun. And when I close my eyes to brace against
the late imperial effects of it, I feel a forebear step forward

from a cave in thought, its arms extended as if to take part
bodily in the beauty of what we call sky, and through some new

distortion in the throat, indicates what the many, still situated
in dark behind us, come one by one to tremble at the mouth to see.




If I don’t speak to
the darkness it
swallows me.




One thing I look forward to in an afterlife is
a detailed spreadsheet of all the dollars I’ve let drop

without notice to the doorstep in disarray as I yank
my house keys out of my pocket in the dark

at workweek’s end, bent as I become on nothing
more than doubling down on the bed once I make it

through the door, too numb in the head to know anymore
much of what’s happening down where my feet are

other than the planet underneath them still spins—
turning days into years, making worm meal of my body

as I walk with a printout of my life’s lost money
into the haze and down to where the water is, sort of

tearful at first to look over times and the sadness doled out
in foolish amounts, which do, as they say, add up, but

it means nothing here, meant nothing all along: I see
life clearly for once, and am just as over it as I ever was.



Timothy Donnelly’s most recent publications include The Cloud Corporation (Wave 2010), winner of the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Hymn to Life, published in 2014 by Factory Hollow Press. A new collection, The Problem of the Many, will be published by Wave Books in fall 2019. A Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently Director of Poetry at the Writing Program of Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives in Brooklyn with his family.