BETTER THAN NOTHING

 

We ate horse, once, at a corner table
in a candlelit basement at Juuri’s-
everything difficult to distinguish,
in a trend filled restaurant
where I’d blagged us a table
with what you called my Irish charms
that your French ones lacked in buckets.
Earlier, we’d flown across the water
on a large ferry to a small island
where the wind blew everything off us
that was unnecessary as if Helsinki
was surgeon and we- patients
coming into the theatre of life
and learning what it takes to eat a horse
that we thought was a bear.
But nothing is ever what it appears,
under a flame or over the wave.
I sit now in another land,
at another table, lighting another candle
and seeing glimpses, in the flickering light
of who we were, of what we tasted
and what that wind swept off our shoulders
that we hadn’t even named.

We ate horse once, in a dimly lit basement,
all fantastic flesh without a single trace of fat
that we devoured while drawing tales
of more than 100 things we’d do together.
I think we possibly made it past 30.

 

All words and photographs. by Damien B Donnelly

COMING BACK TO COURAGE

 

I’d heard of songs being sung in other fields
before I could even read the notes.
Sometimes scores are set before the scenes
have even been shot. Brave, they said,
but I shrugged and set off. I had yet to learn
how fear could freeze.

A fool’s soliloquy is often lighter
than the enlightened and I’d little room for weight
during take-off. I’m certain I folded nothing more
than dreams into a back pack just beyond
the ripening of twenty. Courage hadn’t yet come
to be of any concern.

It arrived much later, when the breath disappeared.

Only when you cannot breathe can you appreciate
what it takes to climb down
from the mountain of ignorance you’d ascended.
Notes can only be held for so long and the higher
the note the more difficult it is to control.

I learned, midway through discovering
I was expected to construct my own questions
before finding the answers, that I was more base
than tenor though forever reaching for that illusive note.
You need breath for both but it takes bravery
to bring either back home.

I didn’t hear those strings strung over home lands
until I was so far away that sound
circled back on itself and I became the shell-
far from shore, finally a chamber to house an echo
that held a song swelling in from the old sea.

Leaving didn’t require anything other than the frivolity
of a single flute but coming back, coming back required
the courage of an entire orchestra.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

BOUND

 

You draw my attention from pondering path
like thoughts collected in a well-worn carpet
and make me wonder, as with love and hate,
which came first- bark almost buried to blind
or the sweet lie of this lichen grown around
your years as if you where

the whole to its being, the breath to its lungs,
the furrow to its field, the ground to its grass,
the comfort to its carpet,

the last shout of its happiness.

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

BETWEEN THE COURSES AND THE CLOTH

 

Gracious and godly, if I recall correctly,
you sat stocky at the table and told us
your passions for paintings and pretty
things and how you’d fallen often, of late,
on bended knee over a foreign body
to worship the whole beauty of his being.
I was shy of 20 at the time, new to dating
and dinner decorum and you- new to me
in this costume of finicky dinner guest.

I recalled you instantly from years earlier
in your work clothes, but said nothing
of how I myself had come to bow
on bended knee before you, confessing
my dirty poor boy childhood secrets
of curses and disrespecting my elders,
in that parish you described over pre-
dinner drinks as devoid of any delights.

I remembered you most as angry man,
sharp like a stick that knew how to smack-
clearly chocked by the confines of that collar,
cursing from the pulpit when babies cried
during your long, slow moving soliloquy’s
of the suffering saint stripped on the cross
and all us sinners, all smelly in their seats.

I wondered, in between the forgotten entree
and the main course of stuffed pheasant,
what it took to be a man of the cloth
in a modern age while I was listening
to your collarless sermon at that table,
after you’d turned to be someone else’s
parish priest, the night you regaled us with tales
of the ring you wore on a recent Vatican visit-
pierced in pride of place beneath that very cloth. 

  

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

A SONG ABOUT THE SPIRALS

 

The circles spiral.
Goodbye is not a definitive swan song.
Time cannot be buried in a single spot.

Early evening
and the sun no longer sets in this kitchen
that watches the seasons turn without comment.
The sills have new shadows we have not yet named.

This morning broke over fallen feathers
and for a second I caught the silence your song once filled
You lay where the grass had barely grown green,
below a tree where we’d placed a bird box
in a garden where a bunny used to come to play at night.

When the sun
shone the brightest
I took your dignity and covered it with a gentle blanket of earth
and placed the bud of a rose by the breast of your stilled chest
in the hope that circles do spiral,
that a root can find a home on a wing that once found flight.

Sometimes faith needs to be released before it can be returned.

Later, after naming those shadows before the sun set
and another spiral closed and then commenced afresh,
I watered that spot in the freshly turned earth
as another bird found its place to perch
on that bird box where you once sang your song.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

WEEKEND POETRY PROMPTS FOR POETRY IRELAND

 

Poet in Residence at Poetry Ireland Catherine Ann Cullen (@tarryathome) sets daily poetry prompts for adults and kids to keep everyone creative during the Covid pandemic and this weekend I am the guest Poetry prompter.

There are prompts for adults and for kids and you can post your poems on my link on twitter (@deuxiemepeau) or post a copy here and I will post them on twitter for you if you want to take part.

The poetry prompt (NodFilíochta in Irish) for adults is Island (oileán). Your dream escape, your home or how it feels to be currently isolated islands.

For kids the prompt is either SnowPerson (DuineSneachta) or SandCastle (CaisleánGainimh). Which would tour child build first?

Come join in the creativity or come along and read the gems by other writers. See you on Twitter for @PoetryIreland 

 

SUPREME

 

I loved China Beach, as a boy and its opening
theme tune- Miss Ross belting out her light voice;
Reflections of the way life used to be, reflections of…

I was too young then to understand anything deeper
than the melody that rose in me while the meaning
sank,

of an age then that had barely left any marks
for time to reflect on later, after.

Youth is too light, like her voice was, to be consumed
by thoughts of things concerned with used to be.

They were lovers and friends and mores and lesses
playing other tunes by the shorefront firelight-
reflections in the flames. All heat and hazy.

But there was a war too, of course, for these medics
and the soldiers they were saving while I pondered
free love and long youth

but now, looking back on the way life used to be
a week ago, a month ago, I see how, even then,
a nurse could rise to be a hero.

And so she sings; Through the hallow of my tears I see a dream…

 

All words by Damien B Donnelly.

Photograph of China Beach TV Series cast pulled from the internet 

TYPES OF DOLLS

 

They call them Russian dolls
but there was a shop that sold them
by the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam,
not far from those ruby lit windows
displaying Dutch dolls in de Wallen,
both of which provided excitement
for wet tourists under rain coats
in the soaked summer months
terrified of traffic and tram tracks
and serial cyclists ringing their bells
like they were shooting guns.

The Russian dolls within dolls
within dolls were higher in price
than those locals offerings
you couldn’t bring home with you
after the money was handed over.
I used to see them, in their windows,
in the mornings- reading the paper
with their crispy toast and mint teas
in G-strings and little else.

I find it funny how undressing
reveals even less of the person
than being fully clothed.
I wonder if those Russian dolls
hold more truths in their multiple layers-
building up into a whole
instead of stripping down for a price.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

MY THREE FATES

 

I- The original

 

Water                            floods flesh

From carnal comes forth     creation

Washed in sin

and they watch. In judgement

Water releases               hold

Sign away the rights                to his name

 

II- The Second Coming

 

Tears flood                   drained desert

She will be  an ocean             once more

Blood             is not the only bond

Longing leans in                  with twice the light

while they watch. In judgement.

Her tears           taunt their dried lips.

 

III- The Journey

 

You are ocean endless   and I worry

about growing                tired.

Sides streets         hold songs.

Every cobble     a connection for collection

Born from one and raised                by another

Now the road    is the mother

Feet turn    on judgement.            I found the refuge

The final fate          is on the road.

 

All words by Damien B Donnelly

THE NEW NORMAL ROUTINE

 

Input-
daily. Early morning.
Wake up to bird call and input ideas for the new day.

Run. Write. Weights. Wash.

Garden. Grass. Weeds. No Smoking.

More Chopping. Manic. Now move indoors.

Pottering.
Pacing. Painting and onto poetry.

Moving out again from bedroom.
Old room. Once far room. Cold room,
where someone died once, before I breathed.

Moving out into adjoining kitchen.
Baking time. Breaking time. Music. Movement.
Being allowed to be berserk.

Leave fears to bake in the oven. Maybe burn.

Let the lowering light have the moves.
The dance moves. In this kitchen.
Here, at the end of day.

Another day. And another day. After the input. The output.

The routine. The new routine. For the new normal.

Making moments count.
Because berserk
is only for the moves and not the mentality.

 

 All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly