BOOKENDS; TIMING IS EVERYTHING

 

Coming in

is easy.

Learning when to leave

is an art

not easily understood.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

This month is about getting ready to leave Paris, for good. Today will also be my last day as pattern maker at the Paris fashion design atelier of & Other Stories and who can say what the future will bring but, (to wickedly steal a show tune) because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

  

  

 

BOOKENDS; A CITE OR A SHADOW

 
A city and a shadow, a choice; to stay or leave,

to concede and crown myself as conquered and then be crushed
or to continue on as committed commuter,

to be complacent
or constantly curious for more light so as to comprehend the darkness,

to break down the barrier between all there is to fear
and come, face to face, with all there is to be.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

This month is about looking back to see how I can move forward. A final goodbye to Paris before moving to Ireland. 

BOOKENDS; A SHADE CAUGHT IN THE SHADOW

 

I walk in circles now, following paths forward that crossover
roads I once considered. Time trips onward but no longer
is the line straight, no longer a captive of direct. This light
is lit now like a last lap, here, in this place once prized,
once positioned next to pride on platforms now too proud
to be passed off as plausible. I’m on the count-down to lift-off
while still turning corners teased with reflections that once shone

with the shade of an old shadow long since shed.

       

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 This month is about looking back in order to move on, shedding old shadows to make room for fresh frames, a farewell to Living with Paris

BOOKENDS; THESE ARE NOT MY SHADOWS

 

You cannot go back, to return does not mean
to rerun, I recognise these streets, I can 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 this form I have now become.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

This month is about looking back in order to move on, one last nod to Paris before I part.

BOOKENDS; EVOLUTION 12, SOME PEOPLE THAT WE USED TO BE

 

We sit now and sip cocktails, the waiter pulls out
your chair and hands me the menu after calling you
madame. I strain now to hear your voice; softer,
gentler, feminine finding freedom. I catch you
checking your lipstick in the mirror, pulling a curl
back into place above those blushed cheekbones
still a little swollen, a normal evening in August,
in Paris, sipping gins and rums and telling tales
before swapping tables over Korean cooking
that give us a brief taste of who we used to be.

We sit here, over cocktails; the man and the madame,
looking like a couple in the reflection of a tainted
mirror and I wonder can anyone tell, as you smooth
out your skirt, that you used to be my boyfriend.

    

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly.

 

This is my final full month living in Paris and it is about looking back to see who I was and giving a moment to recognise all that has evolved and some of the breath that has returned.

BOOKENDS; MINUTES MOVING

 

There are but minutes now, minutes in motion on metros,
minutes moving in on me, on my identity, on my mark,
on my leaning, on my meaning, meaning I am moveable,
like a feast, as he said; A Moveable Feast, meaning I am
manageable malleable, maybe unremarkable, mistakable.

There are but minutes now, there are but minutes moving
in on my metamorphosis, on my undoing, on my unbecoming,
is it unbecoming? on my being misunderstood, misinterpreted,

misrepresented, missing.

I am famished, the feast has moved on, was moveable, mindless
to all those matters that manipulate me, mould me, remodel me.

Minutes, there are but minutes multiplying in metros moving,
on me, in motion, minutes, mounting, minutes minus minutes.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

This month is about looking back to move on, making sure I make the most out of the minutes left to me, minutes on metros, momentous minutes, minutes made of moments.

BOOKENDS; YOU MUST FINISH WRITING THE STORY BEFORE YOU CAN PUT A COVER ON THE BOOK

 

So many sunsets.
I kissed you goodbye but forever never followed,
I thought us broken but we were just bookends
looking for a final story to stack between the regard
and the lack of regret.

I kissed you again, later, after leaving, after returning
but before going, again, and the water stopped.

I caught our reflection for a moment, in all that stillness,
in all we had held of each other but then I blinked
or you rippled

and, all at once, we were done.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly.

This month is about reflections. I moved to Paris, the first time, when I was 22 and stayed for 2 years and then circled back around to this city of shadow and light again at 40. This year will be the final chapter as I pack up the boxes and consider Ireland as home again after 23 years. Who knows if there will be another story to tell of us one day…

HUMBLE AT THE HEART

 

Humble at the heart of this landscape,
this dreamscape I’m training through,
I’m taken by its blossoming breast;
forests firing like volcanos that have shun their rest,
luscious leaves of lava sweep through cities
for man has no control over the mountain
just as nature has no defence against the molten flame
as fiery as the kimchi I’m trying to comprehend.

This one’s a little more digestible, you tell me
but I know you’re teasing as you toss with your own truth.

Beyond our feasting over meals
bigger than bellies but smaller than budgets,
skyscrapers shoot up over mammoth mountains,
a competition that man has no time to master
while in homes, humble, calmness is harboured
to the shore instead of clutter to sink beneath.

Humble resides in the heart of this Republic
once ravaged, often raped, now a melting pot of mystery;
many foreign feet of soldiers stamping
have dug their shadow into all that still somehow shines.

Museums have wings for Japan and China
and those Mongols who molested these mountains
still standing, still growing, still calling us to come
and climb and see the world from another side.

We come to the call of the mountains,
all sweaty chested and dosed in awe,
my heart is held at this height,
it trembles beneath this fragile flesh
and I hold on tighter to each grip of grandeur
and wonder how long my footprints will be cemented in this soil.

From here, high above the crow’s nest,
where Buddha rests with all that remains,
where fortresses have been forged and since forgotten,
these cities sweep away from who they were
and show themselves as who they are becoming.

We are not who we were
but what we have made
out of what has been,
in dusted days,
done to us. 

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly. This week’s theme was South Korea which I travelled through last year when everything was being questioned; my relationship, my former partner’s dysphoria, our own identity, my strength, literally and emotionally, my breath, the first introduction to a panic attack on top of a volcano at 5am while waiting for a sunrise that was not as exceptional as the attack which I thought at the time was a heart attack (yes, I can occasionally be dramatic; you should have seen me in the hospital entrance area when they were trying to tell me it might be very expensive to come in and be treated as a foreigner while I was telling them it might be worse if I died in the middle of their corridor) . All in all, the country, its peace and people and proximity to me at the time, left it a beautiful mark. It was the toughest time and the most precious. Buddhas, blossom, beauty and an understand of breath.

IN THE SEOUL

 

This city does not sleep,
the wind as wistful as thoughts I cannot gather,
here, on this sojourn to the south of Seoul.

Horns honk along highways
waking drivers out of daydreams the night can’t decipher
and we buckle up and giggle briefly in back seats
but I cannot distinguish those star-bound lanterns hung with hope
from the knotted sheets I know not how to untwist.

On the soft slopes,
where Buddha has been worshiped into rock,
helicopters chase the rising sun
while you chase the parts of yourself pills cannot pacify.

Dysphoria is the new mantra.

This body won’t sleep,
this mind has taken to meander along this midway
as trumpeters announce connecting trains
we are always breathless to keep up with,
where palaces accumulate space
in place of standard stains of garish gold,
here, on this eastern stretch of the journey,
here, where cars honk in foreign tongues, far from familiar.

All is not what it once seemed,
this mouth no longer makes sense
as I cut across these sweeping vistas of strange words
breathed with bows and ways so traditional they worry the West.

Here, where there is more space to breathe and my lungs ache to adapt.

In the North,
strange armies are Trumping connections
the other continents are too confused to comprehend.

But here,
south of the strangled ties and demented ducks,
sitting sweet beneath a wiser moon,
the streets are awash with twinkling stars
below a billowing blanket of nature’s blossom;
a covering of comfort which concrete can’t squash and man cannot master.

My body can’t sleep…

I’ve seen too much but still hope for more
while this city wakes up to who it truly wants to be.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly. This is a reworked poem for a week recalling last year’s breathless sojourn in South Korea. Photo taken outside the Dongaemun Design Plaza.