FORGETTING TO REMEMBER

 

There are words
caught in his throat
that he cannot speak
or swallow,

there are thoughts
once captured
and cradled
now fallen from his mind,

and butterflies flap in the garden.

There are names
once rooted in his heart
now wilting like leaves
at the onset of autumn,

there are places
that once held prestige
that have tumbled from memory
like crumbling ruins.

Butterflies flap in the garden,
and, like all that is fragile,
they will one day fly off on the wind.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio available on SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/damien-donnelly-2/forgetting-to-remember

AN UNOBTAINABLE NEED, A SHORT STORY

 

He stands in the shadows, staring out the window of his one bedroom suburban house onto the street outside. The late afternoon sunlight skirts the jaded red carpet as if looking for a way out. An old typewriter gathers dust on a desk next to stacks of unwanted, and seemingly unworthy, manuscripts. A breeze blows through an open window, filling the room with a sense of unease. The laughter of children playing outside occasionally drifts in and out, breaking the eerie silence. His gaze is upon these children and lately, his thoughts have been incapable of leaving them.

A bachelor all his life has meant no chance to have children and with his 86th year approaching, the possibilities seem to have fallen away like the blonde hairs that once covered his balding head. Although his chance has long since faded, his wish for children is something that will continue to haunt him for as long as he hears the laughter.
As his life draws to its climax, his spirit itches to move on from this existence and yet his fragile body continues to breath and he remains staring out a window, nurturing distant dreams that are now as futile as the pages on his desk. Manuscripts that he had hoped would fill the void in his life and yet all he could bring himself to write about was that very void. A void that nobody wanted to read about. He is now become a prisoner trapped inside his own body; a body that has changed while his feelings have not. He doesn’t remember growing old and yet his frame has welcomed it. No longer standing with the poise of a young man, his back now slouches forward, his pace has slowed and all movement has become an effort. There is little on his body that is familiar to him any more.
The mundane pattern of daily life tries to convince him that he is settled. He settles daily into his cream cardigan, his brown slippers settle unto his feet from morning until night. His pleasures are all but dead, except for his smoking, though even that brings a chesty cough. Alone in his house, he is noticed by no one because life has passed him by. His aching body no longer fits into the momentum of modern living. He takes one final glance out the window before climbing the stairs with legs no longer capable of climbing. On a single bed, he rests until dinner. The children continue to play outside on the street.

He tries to go for a walk everyday, but who can go far with legs that want to rest. Resisting the temptation not to, he forces his legs to take him past his neighbours who watch over their children with the usual parental intensity. He watches them run when their little ones fall over and hold them tightly as if to smoother their tears. The moment shared by parent and child is filled with so much love that their bond is almost visible, as beauty is to fragility, as love is to loss, while alone he simply clutches a cigarette. They barely notice him anymore. He is the old man who lives in the old house with the old curtains and the musty smell. He wanders on, past the school playground where again children laugh and play and, watching from behind the wire fence, he feels isolated. He lowers his hearing aid. With no sound, the visions are less painful, but for all too short a time. When the scene needs no sound to hammer home the truth, he moves along, continuously smoking and pent up with jealousy.
He passes the graveyard where voices jeer him from deep inside his own head.
“It will be the end with you, my friend. Your grave shall be bare but for you. No one will continue your name and none shall follow yours on the tombstone. When you go, your name will be no more; for you are the last.”
This is the place that hurts the most. This is the place where green eyes drown in bitter tears. He has been here many times lately, dressed in his black suit, bidding a final farewell to others like himself. But there were always children huddled together on these occasions. They may have been adults, but they had always been children to their parents, in the same way that a single lonely old man can only be a single lonely old man. When the inner voices mourn too loudly, he moves on, using each headstone as a morbid crutch. The hardest truth to accept is that which lies directly in front of you. Waiting.

Epilogue

It has been one week since his 86th birthday. A single card rests on the mantle piece; a sympathetic token from the local Meals on Wheels. There is not a sound in the house, all is quiet. No one looks out from the shadows, no one is haunted by the sounds from the children outside. Junk mail collects in the letterbox. The last of the evening sunlight just hovers in the hallway, creating ethereal shadows in the musty air on the stairway. Upstairs, on a single bed, there is a single body surrounded in silence. In his room, there is not even the sound of breathing. His body is lifeless. His name will continue no more.
All Words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Photograph taken in the gardens of the Musee Rodin, Paris, France

LITTLE BLACK DRESS

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And every day
that the sun still rose,
and some days
were unexpected,
she took the dress
and put it on
as if it pulled
back the years,
as if her skin again
was taunt,
as if her hair again
was blonde,
as if her friends again
were there.
And in the dress
she walked the streets,
in her simple little dress
with flowers in hand
she walked to him,
with lipstick
licking lips
no longer there,
and when she found him
she took a seat
by the earth
under which he lay
and knew he smiled
at her on high
still a beauty
in the dress,
in that little black dress
he had bought her
on one fine day.

All Words and Drawings by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on Soundcloud;

https://soundcloud.com/damien-donnelly-2/little-black-dress

SOOTHING SOULS

 

Mass has passed

and dolled up dames
roam the rues

with coiffed up curls
and cardi’s over shoulders
in summer
as Scholl’s sooth souls soles,

widows
window shopping
for treats to tickle time

that has left them behind.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

LOVE SONG

 

 

He moved in shadows

in ghostly strides that gained on nothing 
but grains that slipped through the hands of time,

She lingered in loss

under caged cobwebs where the widow in black
had weaved her the witch from a pantomime.

She lived two floors up

an attic assembly of ageing antiques
fading to dust and distinctly untouchable,

He was basement left

a sunless space where nothing grew
disregarded, depressed and growing dysfunctional. 
 
She existed in memories 
where arms that once held her faded in frames

He shivered in silence 
too afraid to attempt, too old to make claims.
 
She cried on Saturdays 
and still shopped for two in her one roomed space, 

He ate from boxes
of pre prepared food and longed for taste.
 
She died on a Tuesday before morning mass 
he died that night from a cold he thought would pass .

They laid them together, side by side,
in the depths of the morgue, in a silence that sighed.

Two people who’d never exchanged a word, 
two people lost in the shadows of the world. 

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

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Time slips past
unannounced, unnoticed
age gains weight, adds numbers
carves lines, plots paths
tomorrow turns, becomes today
falls to yesterday
love slips past, everlasting
never lasting
hearts hold hands, change hands
change hearts
I do becomes I can, then I will try
I cannot stay
life slips past
ever evolving, ever learning
as we rise and fall
we crisscross, we get cross
we get crossed off
we get confused, we feel confined
compartmentalised
become complacent, begin to question
what we did, where we’re going
without ever knowing
what happens next…

All words and pictures by Damien B. Donnelly

CANE DAYS

 

Fuck forty approaching,
And fuck metal mats,
Fuck fractured feet
Turning black like rats,

Fuck wandering round
With a walking stick
Exposing the frailties
Of this silly old dick,

I’ll forget the bruises
And broken bones,
Bollocks to bandages
And swollen toes,

I’ll not sit back
And fizzle away,
So watch out world
I’m on my way,

I’ll be the madman limping
And falling down
Cursing his clumsiness
Like a circus clown,

It would’ve been clever
To sit and stop working,
Ignore the garden
And the leaves collecting,

But no, he says,
It’ll be done in a jiffy
Till the mat fell down
And I fucked like a hussy,

I wanted to show them
I’d tidied the place,
I wanted to swim
In their gratitude and grace,

Well, next time I’ll know
To just let the leaves blow
Maybe better a mess
Than a broken toe!

Well it serves me right
For wanted to be noticed
Cause they’ll see me now
All battered and hopeless,

But I’m slowly getting fond
Of this walking cane,
So perhaps I’ll grow
A bearded grey mane,

And sway through the streets
In the wind and the rain
Saying fuck, instead,
To the prodding, prickling pain!

So bring on Forty,
Bring on your force,
I’m saddled and ready
I’m a stubborn, striding horse!

 

QUESTIONS FOR THE NIGHT

The trees have lost their branches,
Their leaves long since took flight,
Barren, bare and lifeless they stand
As the mist engulfs the night.

The playground hauntingly sits alone,
Where have your petals gone?
You are the seed upon which they can grow,
Oh, where have your petals gone?

Pools of water lying still on the ground
Reflecting a lonely moon,
Why must your day always be night?
Only the stars can hear your tune.

Through the darkness the nightingale flies,
The nocturnal bird of night,
Yet its song soothes only the lonely
Who search for a soulful light.

Upon a bench a man sits waiting
For the new dawns early light,
But only sounds can give him life
As old years have stolen his sight.

To the naked seat beside him, he asks
Where have my friends all gone?
The ones who laughed and cherished life,
Oh, where have my friends all gone?

The tombstones stand, names form the past,
Where have your spirits gone?
Your memories are safe in a pillar of stone
But where have your spirits gone?

Along dark beaches wise women walk
Their knowledge as great as their years,
But slowly the waves engulf their feet
As they shed half water tears.

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MOMENTS IN A WINDOW

 

An old man
Crossed the street
Below my window
And I wondered to myself
Where my future would lie.

I put my hands to my face
And still smelt of you
As if your body still
Entangled with mine.

I am now fully clothed
Though just moments ago
Lay nakedly revealed
In your arms,
Told you stories,
Shared your secrets,
But know not
If you know
My last name.

In the comfort
Of almost strangers
We let darkness take the day,
In the silence
Beneath that darkness-
We let your needs find their way.

In a world waged not by war,
Harmed not by hate,
Torn not by tears,
We’d lie together
With whoever
And in each moment
Let go our fears.

You drove me
Home again tonight
And along the road
We passed a sign which asked
Do you know where you’ll be tomorrow?
Of all the streets,
Of all the towns,
Of all of the predictable possibilities,
I wondered alone
As we sat together,
Like we’d just slept together,
Like we’d just kissed each other,
I wondered was it a sign
Just for me?

The old man
Will cross my street
To the pub
Every night
Till his end,
Of this
I am sure
That he is sure.
But if tomorrow
I will again
Smell your scent
On my hands-
Of this
I am sure
That I’m not sure.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Years Go By

Years go by

And I’m still here-

Remembering.

Years flying by-

Feeling like minutes in my mind;

A decade lost in the passing,

Like I’ve fallen forward through a gap in time.

Years in between

And yet that first morning-

Still so fresh,

Waking up into a home I’d gate crashed-

The Irish abroad;

Jeannie, with the flaming red hair

And welcoming hug,

A son in the shadows of another country

And a daughter to fall in love with were I straight.

Unable to forget

Those heated floors boards,

The note of good morning

In the kitchen,

The crispy toast from a packet,

The tiled green bathroom,

Separate toilet

And back to the bathroom to wash hands.

The plant filled balcony,

Those frosted glass doors

Which echoed through the apartment as you opened them-

So mundane and ordinary

And yet so much more

A part of me now

Than those trivial things

Ever where then-

Long before they became

A memory to cling to,

To cherish.

I hold on to so much more now

Than I ever thought possible

Or considered important-

The feel, the taste, the smell,

Like those disgruntled old madames

Who threw water from their balconies every morning-

Clocked in sombre shades of black

And scowling at passers-by like me

For the demise of their youth and their looks.

I can recall-

As if it were yesterday-

Those precious summer mornings

That soon followed me-

The air filling

With the fragrance of freshly baked croissants

As boulangeries opened their bell-ringing doors

To delighted strains of bonjour and ca’va.

Years, reaped upon years

But I still smell it as fresh now

As the day was new.

I can hear those familiar sounds

Of kids-

Singing out in ignorant celebrations

Of their youth

But always hidden from view

Behind high walls of stone.

Paris- the city for artists,

Intellects,

And the amourouse,

Where children are heard

But rarely seen.

No tantrums in stores,

No snotty noses in bistros-

No changings of nappies in sight.

Our Lady of magic was

Fully grown,

Fully developed-

No question of who She was

Or where She was going.

This City was born

Dressed in Chanel attire

With precious pearls to match-

Born a proud,

Free speaking,

Free thinking,

Pompous,

Confident adult,

Without question.

Her raison d’etre-

Herself entirely.

And there I stood

In the middle of it all

Trying to find my own trend

And set a route

Amid multitude of pathways

I longed to explore,

Get lost in,

Fall in love in

And find adventure in.

Time slips away

But it somehow leaves a part of me

Still there- somewhere,

Wandering through covered passageways

Packed with marionette theaters

And tiny trinket stores

Watched over by age old glass ceilings,

Discovering underground chambers

Of sewers and tombs-

Lost generations of the past,

Slipping unnoticed through graveyards

Of forgotten faces

Ad heralded names

Decorated with weeping women,

Stones eyes Madonnas

And cast iron wings-

Never to fly,

Remembering those I’d never known

And wondering who’d remember me.

Sitting by Seurat to make connections in his colors

And wondering what Mr. Wilde would make of us now.

Years gone by

And I still go back there-

Left side,

Art style,

Boho chic-

Where Oscar last laughed

And Sartre sighed

And I remember who I was,

Laugh at who I’ve become

And wonder why I’ve fled so far

From the city that never changes

Whilst I never stop.

Saturday afternoons,

After lazy lie-in’s

Rising through the cobbled hills

Of once moulin covered Montmartre

With Abi’s and Vincent’s

And Yasmine’s and Shaun’s,

Where artists ghosts-

intoxicated

By the green fairies potent mix

And the ruffling of high kicking

Can-can skirts-

Would swept though air

That you had only to touch

To feel a part of,

While tourists flocked

To pick up as many copies

And replicas as they could carry

Without so much as breathing in

All that surrounded them

For free.

I was a free man in Paris too,

My dear Joni,

And have wandered down

That Champs Elysees

In search of those I once knew

And cared for

And loved

And lost.

Years outrun years

But I can still close my eyes

And feel the sun on my skin

As we filled Victor’s fine square

With resounding laughter

That soared around the fountains

And columns

And palaces

Fit for queens.

14th of July ’98-

Champ du mars,

Three tenors,

Fireworks,

Mary and me

And a thousand others-

We were the luckiest in the world.

I can see myself at 23-

Cast bright in the lamp lights

That I sailed past

On the back of a motorbike-

Tearing through world of Hemingway

On the slumbering market street

Of Rue Mouffetard

Before the bank side approached

And Notre Dame lay reflected

In the sleeping waters.

My arms wrapped tight

Around my leather clad driver

With Spanish blood and gallic looks-

Willing to show me it all.

The years may continue

To build on years,

Time will continue

To tick-tock away,

But there are lifetimes

In moments

Which years can do nothing

To suppress

Or erase

If the heart wills

Not to forget.

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