TURBULENT SACRIFICE

 

Mama was an unmarried mother
at the end of the summer of 75
as Joni hissed of the snakes
in the gardens of complacency
where ignorance was still very much alive.

Mama was only a girl in the growing
and possibly no more than just 18
when she bent down and placed
a kiss on my cheek and whispered
goodbye to her own little green.

Mama is someone who I’ve never met
aside from the dream I once had
of her life in a kingdom that ruled
you could not mother a child unless
at first you were a legitimate wife.

Mama was an unmarried girl one winter
in the arms of a man barely stretched
from a boy, her trust in the throws
that left little to believe in and a pain
that pulled on the strings of goodbye.

Mama was once an unmarried mother
and bursting with thoughts her shape
couldn’t hide, but helpless and hopeless
were not part of her form and so she did
what she could when you can’t be the bride.

Mama was a childless woman
when winter that year came cold with its calling,

and the tears started breaking
and the leaves began falling

like the water that had broken,
like the hold that had not held,
like the hope that was drowned,
and the hand that was expelled…

too short, too quick, too hard,
too much to let go for good

and the snakes started hissing on the lawns.

Mamma was the unmarried mother
who gave me the greatest gift
that anyone could, of growing up
knowing that what she had done
was to give me up for a greater good.

     

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

This is a repost form my Joni Mitchell series.

Last month I added my name to the National Adoption Contact Preference Register in Ireland. Maybe the story still has a tale to be told, time will tell…

Sometimes knowing where you came from gives you an idea of where to go. This coming December, after 23 years living abroad, I will move to Ireland to start a whole new adventure in my home country that now feels like an exciting new land waiting to be discovered. I am looking back, at the moment, but seeing in that vision, only where the future will take me. Thanks to you all for listening on along the way,

Love Dami xx

BREAKING NEWS; A TINY STORY

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It wasn’t front page breaking news or even in the supplement section. It wasn’t the sex scandal that scorched the headlines or bloody enough to have readers beat each other for a copy but it still found its way into black and white, pressed forever, or until the print faded, into a line between births and marriages, deaths and disasters.

“Mary, come take a look,” Peter called to his wife at No. 19, “it’s here. Look at it.”
Mary wrapped her dressing gown around her waist but didn’t need to ask what he meant as she came downstairs towards what she knew would be the tiniest of ads, for what more was there to say?

“Have you seen it?” Joe asked his brother over breakfast at No. 15.
“I did,” he said sombrely, “still can’t… can’t believe it. Has she called?”
“No,” replied Joe, “not a sound, but, sure… we’ll see her later.”

At No. 21, Matthew could hear the newspaper being shoved through the letterbox. He was lying on the daybed, in that room, with the cot, staring at a million stars they’d filled the ceiling with only a month ago.

Michael was busy folding the morning paper into a million creases at No. 22, covering it with smudged fingerprints, looking for yesterday’s football results when Anne came in and saw the mess he was making of everything that had kept her awake all night.
“Would it kill you to think of something other than sport, just for once?” she asked him, pulling the paper from his jam-stained clutch and bringing it up to her chest like it were gold leaf about to dissolve and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

At No. 20, the kids were throwing Cheerios at one another when John walked into the kitchen, wondering why his normally rule-rigid wife was ignoring the commotion as she held the newspaper up, lost in what she was reading. Was the world ending and only the newspaper was reporting it? He walked behind her to see what was stealing her attention and then, there it was, the tiny message, not even a paragraph, but it had been enough to let riot rule at their breakfast table that morning. He put his hands on his wife’s shoulders and Alice knew, instantly, that that gentle touch meant more than any words he could ever say.
“I can’t go over yet,” she told him, looking up from the newspaper to her children who played as if there wasn’t a worry in the world. Suddenly she felt guilty at being able to see her own kids on front of her, as wild and wearisome as they were.

Back at No. 21, Jane was also lying down, but in their own bedroom, when she heard the weight of the newspaper falling to the floor downstairs, just below the letterbox. She felt the force of it like it was a building falling on her chest. She couldn’t move, breath. She couldn’t face reading it, not just yet. Was it wrong to seek comfort in the shadows and stillness for just a moment longer? Was it wrong to let reality linger outside for another minute or two? She knew he was in the other room, that room, with its yellow walls and butterfly border. Why had they listened to everyone telling them to paint it yellow? Why was yellow a neutral colour? Now it felt simply cold, sickly and uninviting, or at least that’s what she imagined. She hadn’t gone into that room since, well, not for a while.

In a daze at No. 19, Mary made Peter his coffee, with a dash of milk and two spoonfuls of sugar. When she finished, she sat across from him at the table, watching him drink it, wondering how and when she’d made it. His black hair had a life of its own in the morning, finding every way to stick up, out of place and at odd angles but she would’t have him any other way. He put his cup down and caught her stare. The clock ticked away on the wall but he heard nothing except his wife’s gentle breathing and he realised that if that one sound was all he heard, for the rest of his life, then that would be more than enough.

Joe stood by the hallway mirror of No. 15, attempting to knot his tie for the forth time while his palms perspired.
“Ah, for God’s sake, did Dad teach you nothing?” his brother asked him as he came over and took the tie and all its complications away from his younger brother. When he finished, they both turned and looked at each other in their black suits, white shirts and black, now neatly knotted, ties.
“Our sister needs us today, so head up, young man,” he told Joe, smiling at him in the mirror but they both knew there was nothing concrete behind that smile to hold it up for long.

“For feck’s sake, come on now, Mick, why are we always the last ones? You’re always saying that women are the slow ones! And look at you, Jesus, was it too much to ask for a suit… on today of all days?” Anne was asking at No. 22.
“Ah for Christ’s sake, you kidding me? It’s bloody Tuesday, Anne. I’ve a job this afternoon. Want me fixing a leak in that penguin suit? I mark it and I’ll never hear the end of it from you.”
She took a deep breath, as if every reply from him lately was the wrong reply and he knew exactly what she was thinking, saw it all on her face. 18 years of marriage was a lesson in reading expressions, if nothing else.
“Hey, come here to me for a minute,” he said and, totally unexpected, he put his arms around her and held his wife against his chest like he had done so often in the early years and it felt so good, in that moment, to be held, to be wanted, to be still seen amid all that was now invisible.

“I want you both to behave today,” Alice told her kids while John finished washing the breakfast dishes at No. 20.
“Maybe we should get a dishwasher,” she then said randomly, “to make life a little easier, you know?”
“I think it’ll take more than just a dishwasher for that,” he answered with nod towards their two blonde boys, already kicking each other under the table, “don’t you agree? And you were the one who wanted kids?”
“We wanted kids,” she corrected him, “and aren’t we lucky to have them,” Alice reminded him and he hit his head with a sudsy covered hand for his majorly inappropriate remark in the midst of the current devastation that had brought a silence and a halt to life on their normally idilic street.
“Jesus, I’m sorry, you’re right… of course we are. I’m a gobshite at times.”
“That’s true, but I love you for that too,” she told him as she walked behind him on the way to put on her black dress and ran her hand along the broad expanse of his back, the back which she nestled her head against every night.

When they finished dressing at No. 21, they came downstairs together as the cars arrived. The silence felt like a presence that had moved in with Jane and Matthew, suffocating them. The only break came from occasional cries that filled certain rooms, cries from adults now, not their child. The newspaper was lying by the door. They didn’t pick it up. They knew what was written inside.

‘We held you for only a moment, but we’ll remember you for a lifetime.’

All Words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly.

Photograph taken in the Musee Rodin, Paris, France.

Originally published by OriginalWriting in Ireland in their 2015 Short Story Anthology ‘Second Chance.’

TO GIVE BUT NOT LET GO

Give
give him
she gave him
she gave him life
but she couldn’t keep him.
Give
give him
she gave him
she gave him a name
but she couldn’t call him.
Give
give him
she gave him
she gave him something better
she gave him something brighter.
Give
give him
she gave him
she gave him that forever 
she gave him that forever after.
Give
give him
give him up
she gave him life
and he gave her thanks.
Hold
hold him
she held him
she held him once
before they took him.
Him
her son
he; her boy
he; who was her baby
he; who was her sacrifice.
Give
give him
she gave him
she gave him up
but she never let him go.

 

All Words and sketches by Damien B. Donnelly

MOTHERS CHILD

We are carved and we are cared for,
Cuddled and coddled all our lives,
But we are, will always remain
A mother’s creation, the love
And labour of the hands
That first held us.

I see you
In me, in the minutes so simple,
In the moments so precious,
Sometimes so predictable,
Other times obscure.

I see you
In me, all your lessons listened to,
Learnt from, lived out, a part
Of me now, a part
Of who I am.

I see you
In me, in my ever evolving hands,
Fumbling along their lines of life
But I see your caress steering,
Guiding me on as I
Clutch, climb,
Create.

I see myself
In you, in your eyes, reflecting all
My passion and your pride
Of this gift you gave me,
This life, its laughter
And its love.

I see you,
Ignoring the separating distances,
The forceful waters that flood
Their way around us
But have failed so
In their attempt
To divide us.

I see you
Today, in that jumble of geography,
Challenging the mountains high
And the tides returning,
Unbreakable.

I see you
The light and magic, the mother
Miraculous, a million others
All waiting, wanting, trying,
A million babies, needing,
And still we found
Each other.

I see you
Right before me, yesterday, today
Carefully tidying up memories,
Gently tossing away tears,
Happy in what we had,
Forever soothing
My fears.

I see you,
Smiling. I see you, living, learning.
I see you in heels and happiness,
I have watched you forgiving
And forgetting. I see you
Laughing and loving.
I see you.

I see you
And through you I can see myself
And smile at all we’ve created,
Laugh at the joy we shared,
Wait with the breath held
For all that’s still
Yet to come.

I see you
Now, see the twinkle in your eyes
And I smile at the strength
You taught me.

I see you,
Like this,
Always.

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Adapted to Adoption

 

Removed from you,

I hear your words more clearly.

You failed to understand me,

You neglected to comprehend my lack of questions

For the one from whose tribulations I was born.

What understanding could I have of myself-

When I failed to understand who I am?

And yet- my love removed- see this:

See the woman-

still wet from birth-

Look upon me with swollen eyes

And say goodbye.

See this woman embrace her child-

For all too short one silent moment-

And say goodbye.

Do I feel her pain today-

Or was there any there at all?

What does she think of me today-

Or does she think of me at all?

What right do I have to invade her life

To awaken her present to the wounds of her past?

Hers was the choice-

not mine.

Hers was the loss-

not mine.

Hers was the sacrifice-

not mine-

Not me.

So do not question me when I do not question myself.

Oft’ times I shall wonder but ne’r shall I intrude.

Old wounds have healed and in my hand the knife shall not turn.

I was embraced by others

While she said her goodbyes.

I have been loved by others

Since she relinquished her ties.

You make me laugh as I sit here alone,

You make me wonder-

Could you ever understand who I am?

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly