TATTERED BROWN TROUSERS

 

Father ate all the flowers
in the back garden
because he couldn’t swallow
the promise of happiness
that bloomed within the home
he couldn’t find his root within.
Father left all the flowers
in the front garden,
too proud for others to see
him pulling from the soil
everything he needed help with
but had never been taught the words.
Father liked to laugh, first,
when others lost,
so no one could hear his own loss
tearing at him, like weeds twisting
behind the restraints he wore
like his inside out jumpers
and tattered brown trousers
he thought no one could see through.
Father ate all the flowers
in the shadows
of the back garden
and choked on a laugh
that no one understood.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

13th poem for National Poetry Writing Month

Retouching the Canvas

I am not sure what it was-

A calling, a desire, a need

To start afresh; reborn-

Washed down to white,

A bare canvas to be painted on,

Once more, without mark or tint

Of what had been or came before

And yet, in this new rendering,

Each selected stroke

And technique of life and love

That had gone before

Shone out as if I’d laid

One too few undercoats

To cover up the replication

Of the previous interpretation.

But they were merely tones-

Hints of what had led me here,

To this city as old as time,

That so reveled in its own past

That it proved impossible

For anyone or anything to look

Directly in front of them

Without being aware of all

That lay in its shadowed history;

The heartless father- no longer

As ice stone in the memory,

Melting slightly with every sunset

Witnessed by the Pont des Arts.

How you tortured us,

I once thought, and yet,

With distance to enlighten me,

I see it was you who was tortured

By your own fumbling hands,

Unable to hold on to what you had,

But fighting to make it bleed as it fell

From your frightened clutch.

I’d cast you in my child-thinking mind

As impenetrable rock, and yet,

You were no more than base-empty,

Fool-hearted, stubborn image

Of lost boy, plunking manly grunts

Onto foolish quarrels that festered

Within you, as we pulled away,

Long before your slow path

To fated finish line- the end.

A line that I no longer saw

From the sanctuary of my own

Tiny life, all carved out

In new directions, opposite

To all of yours until my feet rested

On that fine day, in summer,

On the ground under which

I hoped you lay at peace, at last.

And so I turned from you,

With a nod of final forgiveness

To our past and flew back

To my future where firm footing

Claimed my title as accepted dweller

Instead of foreigner within.

I became an inhabitant

In my own right and a witness

To this city that stretched out

Before me as each new dawn

Rose to tempt me

With further offerings before

Wrapping itself around me

Once more as the sun set

On those journeys home-

Always bank side and lamp lit-

When this once walled city

Leant in and shielded me

From the loneliness of that run

From home; the free-falling flight

Of the frenzied Irishman to France.

Was youth my only excuse

For the naivety and lack

Of processions I’d arrived with;

A wallet not so bulging, a tongue

That had barely tickled the language

And a boy without a home,

Or friend or job to do?

And yet that was the desire

That bought me that once-off,

One-way, discounted, newspaper

Cut-out, couponed ticket.

My greatest folly and yet,

So too, my greatest joy.

My canvas may not have been

As blank as I thought but,

By the end, it had been

Uncompromisingly retouched,

The edges softened, the frame

Selected and, in my own reflection,

I saw colors I had never before

Imagined to be a part of me.

pont des arts

Remembrances along the roadside

 

That day- do you remember?

In the car, me- racing away

And you- running,

Me- crying,

and you- waving.

Do you remember?

He was inside- watching, brewing, stewing.

Unable to say what it was that he wanted,

Unable to stop what he had from escaping.

We were outside- turned inside out,

Silenced to the limit,

The end had arrived; childhood given over to adult reality.

That day- do you remember?

Me, being driven away-

Leaving the only home I’d ever known.

Leaving the home he’d broken with silence-

That icy cold reserve; reserved for the undeserved-

Me, you, Mum and the multitude of others

Who tried in vain to hold out a hand;

To reach him, to touch him.

I hear his laughter,

Somewhere in the back of my mind,

Somewhere where that boy still resides

And remember that cutting smile,

That ice cold stare and those eyes that night

When they cut like a blade.

That day- do you remember?

You chased me all along and down the road

As Dympna drove and Mother cried in the seat behind.

You- with tears in your eyes

As the car tore me away from all I’d ever know.

I know that boy’s still inside, somewhere,

Painting his bedroom, playing in the attic,

Writing words to help him understand

And patiently praying that all parents were perfect.

All words by Damien B. Donnelly