Are we worthy? Are you?
I am not worthy to receive you.
I am not worthy.

These are not the words
of any wizard, of any wonder,
of any wonderful god.

Wonderful does not whip us with worthless.
Wonderful does not teach worthless words.

I am not worthy…
These are the words of men
dressed in robes; black threads
woven over winged capes (not that dark knight bearing light)
not dressed as plain men,
preachers married to invisible faiths,
not married to people,
not knowing true love
or what remains after its loss.

Are we worthy, Are you?
Lord, they are not worthy
to speak for me, not in my name
and not, either, in yours.

Were they not worthy,
those wards your black winged women
washed away in the water?
Where is the worth in the world?
I thought laundries
were meant to clean clothes
not suffocate babies in sewers
beneath the shadows.
Was it worth it?
All that worry washed away with the waste.

Lord, here is my worth.
I place it, next to their judgement,
by your feet
and you can decide what has worth
and whose words are worthless
as I reteach myself the value of that single word
in this complicated world,
as I build my own words to be a witness
to losing the less and seeing the more,
I will be my own critic
keeping the Christian and shaking the ‘anity’
that lingers too close to insanity.

I hear only the devil in my head
whispering of worthless.
Surely the right man should be brighter,

Here is my worth…

thread carefully upon it,
not like the prints the pious
already pressed into it
from their proud position
behind the pulpit.

I live in the wild world, not privy to any protection.

Are they worthy to receive me?
I profess this belief, to you.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

26th poem for National Poetry Writing Month


22 thoughts on “BLACK THREADS

  1. Keep the Christian and shake the ‘anity’ – an ongoing process for me in a confusing and complicated world. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Darkness, secrecy and hard-heartedness aren’t sanctioned by God. Even in NZ stories of suffering have come to light from some (children) in the “care” of certain so-called “priests” and it’s broken my heart… I mean I’ve really agonised over it. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”. I believe that justice will prevail. The victims, often now in their mid-life years, need huge support – for many their lives have been shattered. Come to think of it, Jesus had some pretty choice words for the “religious” leaders of his own day.

    • The word religion is weighty, you mention it and hairs stand on end and people take to their defences. As a whole it is divisive and individually is cracking as man ‘interprets’ the divine voices. There seems to be a lot of voices at the moment, both externally and internally and I am trying to look to the ones that raise me up, that instil me with a sense of peace, self, worth. So many words written down by ‘learned’ men, supposedly coming from the voice of the christian God speak about needing salvation, confession, being worthless, all instilling fear. The church i attended as a child wanted me to feel weak and come crawling to its alter. These days I build my own alters using the bricks ‘learned’ men once used to hold me down.

      • I appreciate your thoughtful replies Dami. I was very conscious that a background of Roman Catholicism in Ireland is very, very far removed from anything in my experience but engaging with you through comments helps me learn more about where you’re coming from and helps the understanding. Thanks for taking the time!

      • Well, at the age of 19, I walked into a dinner party I had been told was just going to be a small group of gay men and was surprised to find my former parish priest there, now busy teaching this faith in another, wealthier parish. He wasn’t wearing his robes that evening but did refer to a particular piercing he enjoyed below the belt! He didn’t remember me but I remembered him, how he would complain during the mass about babies crying in the church. Well, that evening, he told us all about his ‘on the side’ antiques business of rare paintings, his Spanish holidays with the taste of the local boys and finally about this previous parishes that he tore apart right there, on front of me. This was the man I had confessed my sins to as a child.
        I learned that night how the church did not work and how men often used it to find shelter.
        But again, the judgement of man came down before be, bearing down on the childhood and parish I held dear.
        I don’t believe that men or women should be told not to fall in love, not to have sexual relationships just because they want to devote the faith to a god. We have seen too much how this does not work, keep something from someone and they want it all the more.

      • It’s sober reading but I have to say it’s helpful for me that you’ve shared this – because it helps explain what’s behind at least one other poem you’ve written that I recall. Some of your poems can be pretty heavy going for me when I don’t have the background to relate to it!

      • Sometimes they are heavy going for me too! Backstories of course help and then at times I guess we always want to hold something back, just a little. It’s scary to be too naked on front of the world, even just alone on front of the mirror at times too.

      • hehehe, and I am just reading your beautiful and delicate poem of wings taking flight across the water, just gorgeous. Enjoy your tea, you pair

  2. Your poem got under my skin and I hope you’ll forgive me for returning, please! About worth. Fairly recently I checked a WP notification. It had the simple message “Ms. Liz, you rock!”. I promptly burst into tears and then laughed (mad, but the truth). It took me a while to tease this one out but as a Christian I believe every human is made in the image of God and at least in that sense I can believe or accept that I “rock”.. and so does everyone else! Like you I was made to feel that I was “very special” when I was a child. It’s a hard fall off that pedestal! Very hard.. I’ve felt worthless at times for various reasons. The “rock” message enabled me to learn that each life is precious, we all “rock”.

    • That’s quite alright Liz, religion gets deep under the skin anyway. Better to be the Rock than to throw rocks. So much of who we are comes from what we have been told early in life. Come repent, seek salvation, drink the blood, eat the body, confess… these words only spark fear to a child and to the teenager and adult leaves a bitter twisted taste. We are all Rocks, now that’s the way to draw people in.

  3. Worthy? For me, the human answer inevitably involves judgement, some kind of assessment about whether or nor we measure up to some standard. Our response to the question is usually one of conditionality–I will love you “when” you do certain things or “if” you believe in certain ideas or share some common traits with me. Matthew 7 warns us not to judge others. We are taught to welcome all as equal children of God. Why? As your last stanza suggests, the question of worthiness is between you and God and nobody should tell you anything different or tell you that you are not worthy. Thanks for sharing this very personal poem, Damien.

    • Thank you for your comments Mike, I really appreciate your insight. Matthew also seems to have had a good outlook too. Your worth is between you and God, how much easier that would be, it also gives us all so much more time to see the beauty than to judge the blemish.

  4. This one gives me chills Damien.
    “preachers married to invisible faiths”–that is so right.
    Their God is not any god I want to meet in life or death. (K)

    • Religion is scary which is strange when you think how it should be something to find comfort in. A crowded cathedral can be the coldest place in the world, an unmarked spot in an open field with nothing but land and sky, now that can be a place to sit and find faith.

  5. So many evil deeds done in the name of religion and by those purporting to be “good.”
    “I thought laundries
    were meant to clean clothes
    not suffocate babies in sewers
    beneath the shadows.”
    (Thinking Joni again with the Magdalene Laundries.)

    That photo is scary!

    • I think this was a dark day last November in parc Buttes des Chaumont nearby. In summer this little mountain folly can look so beautiful, but when you take the light away from it… scary is right. Everything does better when it is lit up. Maybe the church could reconsider the colour of the robe.

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