Patrick Donnelly
Prayer at the Gym

Only an All-Powerful Name

invoked again and again

gives me victory

over middle age, a chronic virus,

the disinclination to lift these weights,

and the crevice between my eyes

reflected to me from mirrors that are everywhere

mocking the idea that my body can be beautiful in this life.


But I’m shocked to discover,

looking up from my hundredth whispered Bismillah,

I’m not the only one praying here:

the brute on the fly machine

with the black bandanna over his shaved skull—

R.I.P. WOLFMAN SHORTY inked by hand

on his right biceps, Twin Towers on the left,

his sexy little belly, if I read right, that says

he’s caught the kitty too (from shooting up,

my guess, and not like me, from men)—

as he inserts the weight pin at 150

murmurs “Just one more,”

crosses himself, kisses

something he holds in his right hand,

then touches the weights in front of his heart

with a tremendous spasm of will—


Oh God

help us to lift it

and go on lifting it,

the heavy burden of Your light.

Found In Volume 32, No. 06
Read Issue
  • Patrick Donnelly
Patrick Donnelly
About the Author

Patrick Donnelly is the author of The Charge (published in 2003 by Ausable Press, now part of Copper Canyon Press) and Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, forthcoming from Four Way Books. An Associate Editor of the literary journal Poetry International, he has taught writing at Colby College, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and elsewhere. With Stephen D. Miller he translates classical Japanese drama and poetry.