Last weekend my mother and her two sisters, the identical triplets of Lusk, Co Dublin, the women who shaped my life, came to visit me in Paris for my mums birthday. Mum has been celebrating her birthday abroad with me since I first moved to Paris in 1997, and then to London and then to Amsterdam and now back to Paris again. Some things, it seems, never change. The below poem I wrote 18 years ago after mums first visit…
Mum and I on my street 22 July 2016
Birthday celebrations at La Rotunde, Montparnasse, Paris
Aspirational house hunting by Parc Montsouris
Blondes in the Parc
I am sure it was Spring but in the scattered photos
by my slippered feet the weather recalls it winter.
Your first foray into the new world I had run to,
forsaking the familiar for the unknown,
discarding childish ways for other adult desires.
Your glistening eyes lit up as I showed you
the treasures I had found, enlightened eyes that hid
so well the tears reeked down since my departure.
Eyes that frowned upon my green sofa bed
resting but a foot from the floor, that laughed
at the view from my first window; just another window
perched but a hands throw away and loving eyes
that saw through mine and smiled; relieved,
relaxed and enthralled. And quickly you began
to revel amid it all; my new transitory family
who took you to their hearts, tempted you with cocktails,
boat rides and frolics within a Spanish tavern
in the Frenchest of all cities where you slowly found
my raison d’être and the joie that had become part
of ma vie became, as always, a part of yours.
My adventure you, now, a witness to, a part of
and integral to. You had been no more deserted
by me than I by you and so geography became now
no more than a different view and no longer
a means of separation. You floated through the city,
your feet feeling nothing but comfort
even as I dragged you up the steps of Montmartre,
hiding from you the lift behind the trees.
With the wind freezing our faces and tears
streaming from our eyes, we huddled together
in queues filled with adolescent vacationers
and mounted fair Tour Eiffel. Through the night’s
falling darkness the city lit up below us
and I traced for you the paths I had taken.
You left amid only tears of joy, my life no longer
to you an empty canvas a world away, but a painting
being filled up and coloured in, in tri-colour, technicolour,
Damien colour. We painted away the days and nights
ourselves, Mother and son, as inseparable as Mona
from Lisa or the Moulin from the Rouge.
It may have looked like winter but we knew
that behind the wind lay a spring in bloom
for both of us. We had earned our time in the sun
and we would wear its rays like medals of honour.
From the vault, Paris 1998.
All Words and Photographs (except the ones I’m in) by Damien B. Donnelly