IN BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE SLEEPING

 

Packed like yams into dusty carriages
we watch from the safety of our sitting room
where Nana used to sit and iron by the table
and Pop, in the corner, with his pipe,
now just names in prayer and that picture
of their wedding on a wall that still stands
and they, long taken to the sleep.

We sit in all this space while passengers
are packed like sandwiches in tin tubs,
trains swapping stations and germs
on the Underground, over the water
where I used to live, once, when nana
was still ironing and Pop, already sleeping.
I was happy then, I think, I tell myself,
I played happy at times, hilarious
and happy little me in Hampstead,
back stage, behind the spotlight
and considering the distance
I’d covered and the sitting room,
the sofa, the Nana and the Pop.

We watch from that sitting room,
now, with its ceiling since lowered
so the heat stays closer to the body-
the only contact we’ll consider-
she on the sofa and me- single armchair
for single boy returned home as man
and now kept home in quarantine,
in close quarters, two grown-ups
counting the money they cannot spend
and watching lives unfold on the telly
after playing clean-up in the garden
and looking to the trees for carvings
of connections since taken to the sleep.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

STILL A SWAY TO THE FINAL ANCHOR

 

Sea claims what man can no longer cradle
but time’s tales can be freed from nasty nets
when the wreck is beyond want, when the cable
has been cut and we come to the call of the current.
Rough becomes rust becomes wrecked becomes ruin,
might becomes memory. Day is done but night unfolds
tales of tides that were tamed, slim seas that harboured
heavy hopes in trusted holds. We dive and then differ
on the return, are undone, unmasked, back to bone-
a battered beauty, once a witness to the wild waves.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

Written as part of the Cobh Writers and Readers #PoetryPrompt featured on Twitter. Do drop by and join in the creative distraction. @CobhWR

SHORT STORIES OF FEAR; WATCHING YOU WATCHING ME

 

 The Dead one

I woke to a mouth already swallowing the claustrophobic earth that mounded itself over my naked torso like crumble over stewed apples waiting to be crisped but I couldn’t feel the warmth of an oven, even buried, as I was, so close to the sparks of hell but, instead of digging down to join the demons dancing in the darkness, I ate my way up and out, through the crunch of earth now meeting the acid of my stomach, past the worms that wanted to wind their wills within this festering flesh still clinging to the bones of a body the day had pushed deep down into the darkness, although nothing works alone; the night has a moon while the day bears that ball of fire which burns through all the possibilities the light can shine upon and so, too, my demise did not happen alone but had his cowardly character carved all over its bloody finality. Oh, how we come and covet and then cum and croak. My name was Benjamin Grant when air was my everything and I wanted to taste all the world had to offer, when I thought I had found it all in him and his horny little hunger I mistook for happiness. Well, now I have no more need for a name and taste only decay, destruction, and a desire only death knows how to discern. And that desire will see his downfall.

 

The Other One, Still Alive

He woke up under a twisted blanket of sharp shadows, startled by a staggered pull of starved lungs begging for air and felt, instantly, the restriction of cold hands upon him, as if trying to close the circumference of his neck, all the while knowing the owner of those hands was nowhere near, all the while knowing what had become of him, all the time reminding himself that that man no longer sought out any air to fill his lifeless lungs in a body that would be nothing more than rotting flesh for fowl figures to feast upon, deep below the daylight, far from sight. He sat there, sweating in the middle of the bed with a fat man snoring beside him and, he imagined with a grim, his Tesla igniting gossip in the gobs of the next door neighbours, a bed once their bed, now his bed, recalling how he had dug, with his own hands, this former lover’s final resting place, a place he hoped never offered any rest, deep in the forest where only savage swine sought shelter, where only callous crows came to caw. He recalled the spot where he covered the cadaver, the one he once so openly cavorted upon, in the coarse, comfortless earth while he cried with a jolt of joy on front of the sudden stillness, the smashing silence that seemed even louder than the muffled screams his boyfriend had made the moment he had pulled the plastic bag down over his head from behind while he had been waiting for him, as usual, just as he had done every morning, for the previous 7 years, by the breakfast counter, in the kitchen. But that morning he suffocated from lack of air and a gulp of coffee he never managed to fully taste.

 

The Dead one

You came into the bathroom, once our bathroom, once our choice of towels and tiles, once the place where I would take you in the shower, against the glass, my fingers in your mouth, my breath on the back of your neck and your body bending into mine. You came in and stood by the toilet, pissing, without lifting the seat, without lifting up the fucking seat. You were still half asleep, totally naked but half asleep. You wore that nakedness often on front of me as if it was something I could never again fit into. You were always standing, posing, looking for the right light to fall upon your flesh. I had thought you meant to tease but now I realise how you saw it more as a torture. You didn’t notice as I moved from behind the door, didn’t hear me step into position behind you, you didn’t even hear me as I sniffed your scent one last time. But there was nothing. I was dead, I didn’t breathe, didn’t sleep, didn’t fuck, didn’t piss, and I couldn’t even smell. You had taken all that from me, a month ago, on an ordinary morning that had barely found its light. You’d grown tired and wanted new attention, someone new to look at with admiration so you could look back and swoon at your own reflection in their eyes. Maybe that was why I chose to break one of the mirrors in the downstairs hallway, earlier, before I’d crept up the stairs and took my position. And then, there I was, standing behind you, not fucking you, not smelling you, no longer a lover of you, raising my right arm, bringing it up and out and around until the shard of glass I was holding caught my reflection just before it found the softness of your socket. Did you have a moment to catch the look in my eyes, watching you, in the glass, before it pierced its way through your eye?

 

To be continued…

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

THE OTHER SIDE

 

What is life but a book to read from both sides,
from either end, from all there is to see here
below the constant clouds of consideration,
from far on high where the clouds are carpet
and the stars as close to perfection as we can get,
for midway through this meander of noise
and nonsense, of love and what is left in its place
when it has parted, I am no closer to the correct
question as I am to the unachievable answer.

What is love but a sunlight seen out of season,
a breath to better us when there is no air,
a rainstorm when all we can see is desert dust
sweeping over the highway where our hope
is headed while are we are bound, barely,
to faithful, to fearless, to ferocious, as we falter,
fail and fall and rise again, better for the bruises,
ready for the next round, prepared to bleed out
our lives along this road we are rocking. And still…

I can drink another case of you,
and you, and you, and you, and you…

What is life? What is love?
What is the point in asking?

We are here… happy, hurt, healing.

We have cut through the clouds
and reached the other side…

What more is there to fear?

 

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

From my Joni Mitchell inspired series of poems from a few years back.

THROUGH THE SANDS

 

And when they danced
she would hold him, her
perfume by his face, his
hands as her strength
as they waltzed through
their current as the tides
swept the shore, through
love and labour, to the first born,
still born, through the twins
who stopped the tears
and the girls who tied
the bows as the sands slipped
through time and the pace
became a quick step, through
the hands that held and those
hips that swayed through
the melody they were making
as they danced through
waves of washing houses
into homes, children into
strangers; rarely calling
and barely remembering
but on they danced as red
locks swept into silver strands,
as full head turned to bald head
on an older head as they turned
to the music now made
in the memory, till she left him,
finally, one morning in May,
as he rose to the sunlight but
she had lost to the moonlight
and so he built her an alter
of sea shells and sentiments
and now he turns, alone, across
the sands still slipping,
as the stars plot a path for him
to reach her in eternity.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

From the poetry series A Month with Yeats

IN MOTHER’S GARDEN

 

Mother,
the path has been puzzling and there are patterns now,
penetrating patterns once thought impossible, entwined
around veins, like vines that vie for vittles’ on walls
already wavering, on buildings bare as if each brick
banished is a breath broken,
Mother,
I carry more now than before but fragments have flown,
not yet cremated but I’ve scattered ashes over mischievous
maestros who tussled tarnished tunes along my tissue,
who cut cords, crude and often crippling, who leeched
the lyrics from my limbs when I thought a relationship
meant relenting to the rhythm, when I thought love
was a note never ending,
Mother,
we’ve seen how sacrifice can separate mother
from her making, little girl blue you had to give up
and woman who had let me go, the root cut from rose,
adapting far from the garden of creation, but we adapted
to adoption as if it wasn’t an option, as it wasn’t a question,
for there was always a connection,
Mother,
I see you with the bud of your womb now returned to you
as woman, your vines reattaching as nature intended
while I rarely regard the roots of my own becoming,
still too busy looking up and over, looking always
for the next interchange, questioning every other connection
in a garden scattered with those ashes, the bush burning
as the blossom still blooms,
but Mother,
I’m more you than the woman who made me, I am
more product of the carer than sewer of the seed who
so long ago saw the sacrifice in her own soil
and replanted my life in your warm embrace,
Mother,
I’ve seen stars setting fires to skies in other lands
where other oceans wash over other sands, stars
that still fade, though they are far, sands that still sweep
into all-consuming currents while populations ponder
the same problems as stars flicker out and time slips
through our hands,
Mother,
I’ve seen money makers in plastic palaces following
white lines to narcotic nirvanas as if salvation
was snortable, I’ve seen wiser men, on the sojourn, in India,
blind to all light, perhaps shielded from the fight,
holding tight to a smile that has slipped from our grip
with eyes still able to trap the light, with hearts too hungry
for more of more of more, polluting once stubborn seas
as we rape other roads, take other fruit from other gardens,
while blind men begged for nothing and saw more
than I could ever imagine,
Mother,
the days are now shorter and even before night
falls there is less light that falls and people are crying
in the streets, the flowers are folding and retreating into
the dirt as if hell might be better, Mama, people are dying,
dying in discos and in diners and in school halls
where they should be learning to be better, not leaving blood
behind on broken desks and chalkboards with equations
that don’t add up because the book has been swapped
for the bomb,
Mama,
there are horrors happening now, not yearly, but daily,
one chaos no longer fills one book, but one chapter,
followed by another and another with no let up, no
intermission, our gardens becoming desert landscapes
as all that tries to exist is destroyed, as all that was once
deemed right is declared wrong, as all rights are removed
and all races viewed as radicals,
Mother,
they’ve mistaken the mask for the man and they can’t see
though those smiles I’ve staged to still the shadows that line
these lines, these lives played out upon my breaking breast,
pouring like riverbeds raging over banks, over blank pages,
drowning them with tales, twists and turns, loves and losses
that have taken up home below shivering skin,
mostly uninvited, like wild flowers in the garden, like weeds
we mistake to be worthy of their place till the thorns bear
their treachery,
but Mother,
amid the mayhem there are moments magic, there are babies
being heard with first breaths beating, there are skies
singing of the sunrise, there are still sunsets still sweeping
shores where lovers still linger, long after the first kiss,
there are words whispered on winds, glorious hymns
of hope and heroes and there is art, still filling walls
with light and life, there is music and there is, as always,
your smile
Mother,
life is a series of spirals, not just circles, for it elevates
on the turn, not just levitates, for I am back, again,
at the beginning, but frail are the things once thought
familiar in this once foreign land I fled and feared
never to return, in this land where nothing changes
while everything moves and the shadows I once knew
have up and vanished and grass is growing where once
there was concrete and concrete has crushed all
that was once green and grand and 40 is not as adventurous
as 20 but the questions still remain unanswered
so there is no turning back because, as I said,
the vines have entangled themselves around me,
in this garden I’ve grazed in, from a distance, for so long,
pulling across my chest, either aching or yearning,
they are drawing me down, down towards the ground,
down, at last, to regard the roots of where it all began,
so long ago, when I first dared to ask;

Mother,
Will we ever have all the answers?

All words by Damien B Donnelly

Main Photograph of Mum and I in her garden back in 22 July 2002 on her birthday.

ADA2EA65-BC8A-4681-AB0A-D9C9C7DDB242.jpg

And today, 22nd July 2019, still filling our garden with joy…

Happy Birthday Mum, Love Always

BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES, NO 2, NAPOWRIMO

You cannot go back,

to return does not mean to rerun,

I recognise these streets,

recall a certain laugh,

a twisted lie,

an open door,

but my footprints have changed,

I cannot find the same sunflower

I drew when I was younger

than this youth I now cling to

and so many 

of those old doors have twisted

and the lies opened out to be

nothing more than lessons.

I cannot go back,

the streets now wear shadows 

that never fell from my form.

All words and drawings by Damien B. Donnelly

THE RETURN TO THE WATER

 

At 20 I was reckless,
I waded into waters
with careless concern
for direction.
At 40 I had grown
to understand grounding;
it was not the water
that rushed through me
but the bed my body
rested on. I stand again
over the waters,
rushing always onwards,
but have found my place
in a bed that reassures me
I am no longer a victim
to the whisper of regret.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Inspired by a Twitter poetry prompt form #WrittenRiver

LIMITLESS

 

I am older now,
wiser now,
time has folded
over fears and foolishness,
I am man now,
boy now; nowhere to be seen,
I can gaze back
at who I’ve been
but can only wonder
at what I’ll become.

Time folds
but life yearns to be limitless.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Inspired by a three word Twitter prompt ‘Folded. Nowhere. Gaze’ from @_Sense_Wrds