These poems circle unexpected, compelling questions, intent on transporting their full measure to the reader (as it might be revealed only in that company). Avid to understand “how we get human every day,” these poems rush and retreat, feint and decide, test and welcome, and always branch. The result is a volume laden with rambunctious splendors and meticulous reflections brought forth in a voice that is musical, witty, perceptive, affecting.

© 2005
89 pages

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Afternoon and Morning

                 – for Robert Dana (1929-2010)

An opened drawer in a rented room opening onto the Pacific.
An empty drawer which follows the orphan full of his seven decades.
The drawer he checks one more time every time before his last departure.
The mother drawer, the father drawer, the drawer of each achievement.
He draws in its odor of cedary deal, the faint must of a vanished Bible.
Death remembers each soul only once and then forgets it
but the drawer remembers, the drawer knows what it holds and won’t confide.
Out the window, the curve of his life begins again where sand and cloud meet.
No need to sail to the edge of things, the falling-off place is here–
the sudden plummet through an afternoon that aches now to swell shut . . . .


The old man must be patient company—no one listens to an old man shouting.
The old man must not speak his tears—especially those not quite shed.
The old man is helpless—he hears it in the stories he’s been told.
Their outcomes—how comforting to foresee them, how foolish to believe this death.
He rises now more often before dawn—feels it wasn’t early enough.
So much of . . . it? . . . is ambiguous arrival—blanched afterimage of a flash.
His journal hidden underneath the chair cushion—no one sits there comfortably.
Morning is longer than anyone—he readies himself for its scents.
He gathers a bunch of wildflowers—notes: the hand grasping: eternal spiral.


Let’s talk too much…

Let’s talk too much and wake up tonight and worry
how we get human every day.

Let’s argue for the point we were going to make long ago
and forgot in words that change the room’s dimensions,
whose shame is ours and imperceptible to others
holding forth, interrupting the unexpected.

Let’s scramble the midnight eggs with gossip
and sit in the cinema at 9 a.m.,
whispering that mood where everything could become a poem
(not unlike the money in your pocket
suddenly flying into the river,
becoming the river, becoming
a back stiffening when the sun finally rolls off it
and then bliss ambiguous).

Let’s not so much flatter giants
(who aren’t ordinary as their tells and wiles)
but joke with them like hapless governors, old lovers kept in shape;
they own questions, too, and might
let those disappointments slip.

Yes my broken-windowed friend,
the burrs in Dante’s fur need combing out
like the struggle to submit to each voice we might call mine.
And there’s the old story we wanted told of childhood
that was another frank resistance to the now-shorter life.
On the corner, in that slight at the counter,
and the sense of luck
like a traumatized muscle,
the still beautiful abounds.

Sing how.
Even if boredom seems the way of all flash.
Shall we go down in flaming acquaintanceship?
Shall we balance our blood?
Let’s isolate the matter
neither liquid not solid nor certainly gas.
Let’s help ourselves to the problem.




Those people we want to come back from.

Those we must ignore.

Who could share.

Who would not be ours.

People we dream

and have never met,

and those we wake to.

And those who replace the people

who could not be done without.



indelible people.

And those who return to us

in the mirrors—


Those who would teach us

or kill us.

Who were not always such friends.

Bored ones we feared.

Cruel ones we loved.

Of sawdust and olives,

placebos and pinwheels.

Those searching our belongings.

Those unretouched.

Who have never been.

Who wait for us . . .


I skin-colored shell ground into sand

shaped into a castle washed out to sea


I the dish of gems to be set in mosaic

I trademark

Inappropriate experience

Change or die

Die and change

I child in the closet

counting how long it takes to be missed

I blind ballerina

rehearsing steps with fingers on the palm

I the order of importance contingent fired

Five kinds of money in a wallet

Here here each landfall a street


. . . Cities blackening the fingernail.

A donkey’s ear flicking snowflakes.

Buddhas, turnstiles.

The whisper in the mind.

And the hurt which, as it passes,

grows legendary—

so tightly does it focus a time

(as joy might).

Cool vendetta of self-awareness.

Defeat’s inevitable homecomings.

The palm’s edible heart.

And eternity

rolling down the inside of the ancient’s shirt

one rib at a time.

Dawn that won’t be kept outside,

the cars on the beach, spreading their wings!

All makes releasing their owners!

The diary and its violation.

Parched, migrant-harvested groves.

Light of unnecessary forgiveness . . .


You the position of tenderness

You a paging god

You hatcheries

a carnival of missing fingers

You who travel on the tongue

The vitamin received at the crucial moment

allowing one to think

not at all


Odor of cut grass cheering unseasonably

You romance projected

onto a ripped bed sheet in Bangladesh

You the loneliness just under my skin

You in my mouth can’t write an angry poem

You in my mouth make all statistics smile


. . . Those places we need to drop dead at.

Those places we’ve never touched.

Old woman sweeping Centerville.

Distant thunder rattling the door.

Locations the crow calls uh-uh, uh-uh.

A haven between the eyes.

Children stopping play to watch the stranger pass.


A land where they marry for love!

The assassin bowing,

the explosive strapped to her back.

The hungry archerfish

spitting, bringing down the butterfly

from the twig near the surface.

On the radio, a man summarizing the plot of an opera.

The whole rose bearing its essence

as its lone petals do not . . .


Us the first war bride off the boat

Us poaching dogma

Us the pearls Caligula served to his horse

Flame tree blowing in late May

Us the owl staring ahead it cannot move its eyes

Us the day a scroll painting unrolling rolling up


Odor of love’s nape

Pausing at the rib once to reconsider

Branching shadows on snow


It’s prideful, of course . . .

It’s prideful, of course, but I admit I love poorly—
which is not the same as, in youth, confessing
I’ve been a lousy lover. Age makes us grateful for love,
so attention is welcome even by the suffering and betrayed;
even spouses will hope we might become what they think we were.
They don’t want that so much as the poetry in our pockets now.

The spouses go to bed early, yes, at this time of marriage.
And, remaining, we’re relieved and disturbed by not knowing
how to perform as we have for other years.
We might well perform again when shown how we undid.
There are things to say in this. But the things avoided
are not so much unsaid as wordless.

One sits alone and is not one. One does the last dishes
and wonders should the next page in the novel be turned?
Should the wine in the glass enter one? The triumph
is discovering that there’s still pleasure and satisfaction,
though it’s difficult without the unmockable look.
How far dare I go with this before I fall asleep and sober up?

How far does anybody go when they enter or receive?
No one knows when it’s the beginning. Oh, the hands,
my hands, are assured in memory. My heart—
not much different from every protagonist.
I’m faithful to habit, hating its romance, and I’m breaking.
Love, I know you are, too, and just as frightened.
Yet there are no words because time is with us and against us.


Now that leaders tell us peace . . .

Now that leaders tell us peace must be of war,
and we dream each night of war—
with Justice under house arrest again
and Doubt a mere redoubt—

I remember that half-skeleton in April
peeping from the dovecote,
as though the instinct to abandon winter
failed against familiar straw.

I want to blame you, Nature, for our silent tongues
weighted by the Holy Wafer, the coin;
for old wrongs spawning wrongs
secreted beneath each last reprisal.

Forgive my presumption. I’m just another kook
raging from a public mirror
at the likeness of a righteous grimace,
at the damage carved in peoples.

Our day swirls in its test tube, our publicity
glistens with art crawling up a twig
to see it, finally, as a twig;
with consolation planning a monument.

And more to suffer now than ever, for awhile—
and more relief beside the doomed.
Not even joy is stopped.
Who’s worthy to accept surrender?

The lies don’t cut their own throats,
whatever some might wish.
And your wild iris doesn’t bloom in certainty.
You didn’t make us. No, you’re not alone.



Of Morrill’s most recent collection of poems, With Your Back to Half the Day, Enid Shomer observed, “Most of the time, as Donald Morrill puts it, “the moment arrives like a hundred dull cousins.” Luckily, it is precisely the deadening rubble which his poetry prods into a skeptical yet wholehearted pursuit of the numinous . . . Even more remarkable in this collection are the flashes of wisdom and moral clarity . . . This poet’s intelligence, combined with profound humility, produces moments as bright as the blaze on the waves at noon.”
— Enid Shomer
“This is a book that transcends the writer and reader as we know them and forces us to look at the inherent contradictions in our own lives. Morrill’s experiences of love, loss, friendship, family and life are my experiences. As I am compelled to go to work today because my three-year-old daughter says,”Mommie, you have to,” I am further compelled to see how Morrill has recorded our collective experience in his honest and searing poems. In the end, he offers us a fine collection of well-crafted poems successfully balancing head and heart.”
— Kristine Snodgrass, Organica News
“In his third collection of poetry, Awaiting Your Impossibilities, Donald Morrill recognizes the poet’s desire to speak truth, and the reader’s hope, albeit unmentionable, to take truth away from a poem. He recognizes it, but he doesn’t yield to it. The speaker here seeks and fails at epiphany—axiomatically, intimately, or both—in effect, he tries on knowing like a cloak, while paradoxically, he writes poems whose primary gesture is to strip the mind bare. Awaiting Your Impossibilities is what the spirit would speak if it could talk directly—not as ‘all thought knocked down to self hatred or self love’ but in that uncertain place beyond dichotomies. Morrill may say ‘there are no years in praise,’ but there is a strong sense of time and tide in this praiseworthy collection.”
— Jenny Factor, author of Unraveling at the Name
“‘Whose near miss are you?’ asks an early poem in Donald Morrill’s Awaiting Your Impossibilities—a book brimming with questions, postulations, and assertions that are equally as haunting. Triggered by something as small as a twig or as big as a bolt out of the ether, Morrill’s probing lyrics approach what matters—death, love, how to live—from startling angles: ‘Whose memory can we invade, should we really end?’ and ‘Everything is escaping you—that, too, is happiness.’ Formally inventive, purposeful yet disparate, both musing and muscled, these poems call me back and back.”
— Ellen Doré Watson, author of Dogged Hearts