CALLING

 

Boys came calling after school,
sometime between six and eight,
before the summer- longer days
under the swell of frustration.

Boys came calling after school,
halting homework and hunting,
looking to come closer to a truth
but I held mine firm, in the door-
halfway, me half in, half confused
as to what they wanted, intrigued
as to who they thought I was.

Boys came calling after school,
before the summer- longer days,
stifling nights, sticky like glue-
like adhesive that never stuck
to the right surfaces as I beat
myself into a form I’d never fit.

I wanted to open the door,
to the boys who came calling,
to accept that some could be
sincere after so much shame
but I was afraid, at that time,

of who exactly might come out.

   

All words by Damien B Donnelly

BOOKENDS; GOLDEN GREENS IN THE GARDEN OF GREEDY YOUTH

 

In days now distant, we were one floor up, apartment dwellers
whose viewless windows revealed to us more than the darkness
that tried to appeal to us. Tambourine Therese tapped her tunes
of truths not yet tasted, tumble leaves freshly fallen from the trees
in the apple orchard of golden greens begging to be bitten into.

We were eager-eyed innocence yet to be broken by the blue;
scavengers, seeking the scent of salvation on the shiny streets,
saving up to buy beginnings to cut cords on. Mitchell as muse,
we were lyrics yet to be licked and covering Carey and cases
of whoever might come calling on the Casio in a little corner,
salivating for suggestions to rise in us seductions and thirsty
for tattoos to plot paths along our pale pinkness so as to track
our trajectory while singing in the ignorance of our sweet sorrow.

Sweet birds of youth busy building nests in confines of concrete,
too blind to the battery, we were born for the bloom but forging
a forever on a friendship that failed like the lie of a lead balloon.

In days distanced from all that was once dream, I’ve found form
as lonely painter on this canvas of winding words, a connoisseur
of cutting cords, often curt and callous, in the challenge to manage
the malice and learning to be fateful only to the fate that awaits
but caught at times, by the complicated cords that cannot be cut.

I hear you on the wind sometimes, tapping those tunes I thought
this body had forgotten with its skin no more so pink, so fresh.

The fruit fades but we find ourselves then reformed into fractures
of what once was, frail fragments unfinished, like filigree too fine
to unfold, like a dance as yet undone or a song we had still to sing
in this city I once returned to while moving on, slipping forward
through shadows passing, still building nests, still seeing better
in the darkness and touched, in that half-light, by the purity
of your sprite, once so fair, one so rare. We fell so fast
to finished and yet, as she sings of those songs like tattoos,
I’m reminded of that one flight up that can never be diminished.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

This month is about looking back at all that cannot be forgotten.

We will always have Paris, it appears…

SUMMER SUN IN THE MARSHES

 

Three boys and a girl, coasting carelessly
from teens to twenties and coping lazily
with hangovers beneath the summer’s sun.
One blonde and three browns, laughing
amid golden rays that filled the most perfect
of squares in the once marshland of Le Marais
with its cobbled streets, men of elegance
and women who followed their trend.
We were setting no trends, the four of us,
but caught up in the richness and comedy of it all.
We were Irish and English and one of us French,
young, unknown, foolish and arrogant
to everything but ourselves and ignorant
to who it was that we were.
We were like the ground we sat on;
a once sinking mess belonging to a world
of daylight dreaming, where un-cautioned laughter
tickled our sleep though not our feet, but suddenly
we’d found potential in possibilities
seen through slumber-less eyes, far from dreaming.
I was laughing with one, blushing with the other
and was sleeping with the one so typically French.
I’d befriended the one I’d hoped to sleep with
and undressed with the one I should’ve remained
discreet with. I would later miss her, lose contact
with him and wonder how to stop sleeping
with the other. But that day, in that light, in that heat
of that summer, we’d found our way, heard our voices
and finally found what it meant to belong.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

This is a repost of one of my older poems

GOLD TAINTED GRASSES

 

Corners come crawling from the fine folds
of memory when the lavender was long
with laughter beyond the bridge
where the lazy water twisted her sky’s blues
through rough rock and tufts of gold tainted
grasses that I captured on canvas
and you kept in glass cases crowded
with curated curiosities and empty wine bottles.
We were in your Queen’s country; Balmoral
and all her bounty without a breath
of any Brexit. They had a tin can
of baked beans in her local store
and a couple of packets of butter biscuits
in a coating of plastic tartan and I wondered
who had the midnight nibbles
after the summer’s sun had settled
over the north that so wanted to snap
from the south. We’d sat in a church
with the Ma’am herself and all the family,
a tiny little thing (both monument
and monarch) cut into ragged rock
on the turn of a heather hewn hill, clinging
to its own existence like the family
and the faith and the kingdom. Later,
we gathered with giggles in a glen
as little Miss Sydney crippled us
with comedy and the Ling heathers
bloomed in the buoyancy of her laughter,
a daughter of the Commonwealth
now no longer common. All things come
and go, like the scent of cut lavender,
culled and so peacefully plain, its colour
now lighter, now longer able to be amethyst.
Memory too folds and fades like the colour
of each encounter, like the bloom and
the border, the lavender and the laughter,
the freedom and the procession, the family
and the faith, the country and the conqueror,
like all entrances and all their unexpected exits.

   

All words and water colour by Damien B. Donnelly

21st poem for National Poetry Writing Month

GOLDEN HAZE

 
Slow comes the morning,
eyes still dazzled by the delicate stars
now off trailing dust across the universe
as if plotting tracks to tempt us
further than the stubborn stance
of our single spotlights
and I wonder how far you got
as I sit here, in the silence
of this slowly waking morning light
casting shadows on the single form
in this too big room with no door
large enough to climb through.
We considered setting sails
on cotton clouds once, long ago,
in a corner of this concrete jungle,
a single streetlamp casting courage
onto our concerns of cutting free
like a jazz break from the base,
of burning our own trails of glorious starlight
across the deafening daylight.
I am breath that still can bleed now,
here now, far from that corner we once
we painted dreams on, trying to force
the foot to slow the speed of this time burning
while you; already taken to the dust,
now a speckled starlight
cutting your own groove
into an orbit I cannot observe
while tossing remembrances
down from the night sky
that fall and flitter
above the dizzying distraction
of this golden haze of mourning light,
still coming on slow.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

17th poem for National Poetry Writing Month

POCKETS OF TIME

 

I have crossed many oceans and have known
few limits, I have travelled many roads
and have folded my favourites into pockets
of time, stored in a hundred boxes, marked
with a thousand names who have touched me,
sealed with a hundred souls who have moved me,
taped with a dozen men who may have loved me.
I have travelled many roads and I have packed
many boxes, I have folded so much of time,
and lost too many friends, but memories
cannot be stored in boxes and time cannot
be held in pockets, roads are only the beginning
and friends are never truly lost. Home is not
housed in bricks and mortar, home is like the ocean; 
                       it knows no limits if the water is willing.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

THE WATERS OF TED AND KARLA

the waters of ted and

Every summer for 5 years they made their way to the banks of the water. Even as a child he noticed the stillness under the breath of morning that bayed across the river as if the day and the pair of them had not yet been discovered. And it was true, in part, of them at least. Their youth, their innocence, their view on life was mysterious, like the mist above the water, imagining where it came from, what lay beyond it and where it would one day take them.

Somewhere in the last years, someone built the wooden deck, measured the timber, cut it, laid it, hammered every nail between the lines years had carved into what had once been a tree, attached the metal ladder that slipped down into the waters beneath but clung always to the wood as if too nervous to dive right in. But it was too late.

When he was 9, a year before the deck and the chopped wood and the metal rail that cast strange reflections into the sleeping waters, the stillness of one summer morning had been awakened by a silence more shattering than a scream, as if the world had stopped beating, as if the water had stopped moving, as if life itself had stopped. And it had.

Like every other day in august, they had met on the stoop of her front porch, he in his stripped trunks and brown leather sandals, she wore a blue bathing suit and tiny white pumps like ballerinas on stage. She had to be back early, her mother was making pancakes for breakfast. She promised to keep him one for the following day. She always promised and always came through, except when she promised they’d be friends forever.

They ran, as always, from the stoop, down the lane, past the trees and bushes and the bins and the beaten down cars, past the boats raised up out of the water to dry out.

Karla was 10. She had green eyes and liked sherbet dips and read the Beano instead of Mandy. She had freckles on her arms but not on her face. She had brown hair and her mother said she already looked like Ali MacGraw.

Ted was no Steve McQueen. He had dimples on his cheeks and black curly hair. At 9, his moustache was already the talk of the school which meant they finally stopped joking about his belly. Karla never mentioned his belly, like I said, she promised to bring him pancakes.

When they reached the river bank, they usually jumped in holding hands, breaking the surface, breaking the stillness, waking the silence. But that day Ted was still eating a bagel he’d pulled from the pantry on the way out the door so Karla ran and jumped and hit the water and it splashed and she went under and it settled and the stillness returned as he stood there watching and eating, and the silence mounted as he stood there waiting, and the fog stole the air as she failed to surface and he looked into the water, so still and silent, and he saw his reflection in the water looking back up at him and nothing beneath it but nothing and nothing.

She was gone and all that she was became the light that lit that day and all that she had been washed away in the water and all she had seen rose up to the surface and became a reflection that looked at the sky as it looked down from above but only the heavens saw her reflection in the water, only the heavens looked down as she faded, dissolved beneath the milky mists of morning.

Only the heavens and the boy named Ted with a bagel in his hand and tears in his eyes who once loved a girl who looked like Ali MacGraw. 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

ME ON THE METRO

 

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It was this morning and yesterday again,
          a smell, a scent, on the metro, in my nostrils,
                    a decent into the memory, a revery playing, replaying 
                while the crows counted Round Here, they sang, 
          this year and that other year, all at once,
we sang our own song, once, once, once
          but time, like the metro, took us off and on
                     into different directions, obligated to other distractions, 
                                           men and marriage, movements and meanders,
                                 an Irish song we sang, you sang, I listened 
                    and then I left while you stayed on,
        stayed on track in that other year 
but I came back and you were still there
           still here, Round Here, as the crows sang,
                     are still singing, those counting crows
                                   their words still ringing 
             in my ears, today, on the metro,
  with that scent, that odorous accent
            that opened a gap in time between yesterday,
                                            when we were young, and today,
                                                              grown worldly and wider, 
                                           this morning as my mind rushed
                            and passengers crushed onto carriages
            commuting, lines crossing, junctions joining
as I went to work remembering who we were,
     I wore waistcoats even then and you a brown coat
                            that caressed your curves and concerns,
                                   I went to work while traveling onwards,
                                                     along the same rails,
                                          in the same direction
                      as before but different too 
                             some things old
                                  and some things new,
                                           still me on the metro,
                                                  still me and there’s you.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Joni on the Mantelpiece

 

They met in Paris, first, temple street, 2nd floor,
Capricious teenagers cavorting into their twenties,
Ardent and ernest, like you were once, in Greece,
In Californian climes, casually cruising that fragrance
Of embryonic adulthood, a god-fearing blonde
And a darker haired homo reading her his poems,
Pathetic irrational rhymes while she postulated
His meaning, his leaning, his lust, his hunger,
Different to hers, he was meat and she vegan,
Excessively, and a virgin, implausibly, but they danced
For a while, boho style, in their condo by Picasso,
In that marshland, tumbling through your tunes,
Cords you’d constructed, teased and twisted
Around your fingers, round your head, birthing
An early cognisance for that circle game,
The courting of the carousel they considered not
In their templed tower, seeing not the jest of life,
The godforsaken gamble, that game with terminus
At the top, where someone wins and the other one whines.

They slept in Paris, France, hitched up in a hotel,
On a rainy night, duetting in a double bed, withered
Wallpaper wilting over them as she caressed the keys
Of her Casio, covetous to sink between the sheets,
Descend within his dreams, distant and different to hers,
She sensed an extrinsic eroticism in every opposite,
An insatiable enigma in all that was alien, she giggled
Girlishly at the sumptuous sadness of the songs she sung
While it aroused in him a wilfulness, a wonder, a world
To be part, he drifted through dreams where fingers,
Other fingers, not hers, not his, freshly fervent fingers
Pressed him, played him, taught him, turned him on
As she lay, sidelined, solitary, single, sitting up
All the night, just like you said, to see who in the world
He might be, as if that might, in turn, unveil the truth
Of who was she. She was beautiful, he wanted to say,
But he could never tell her, truthfully, she could never
Understand his appreciation at a distance, his admiration
Without temptation but she drew him in, nonetheless,
Thrilled him with her air of ease, the breeze she swept
Into a single shift of the hand, flicker of the finger
As she perfumed, pouted, played the blues, blue,
Your Blue, hey blue, here is a song for you, you said.

They lived in Paris, once, in the 3rd, 2 rooms, a comical
Shelter that boycotted sunlight and a battered boiler
She duelled with at dawn with a horned heel
Of a working girl’s shoe as if to shock him from slumbers
Of wet dreams, far from her unspotted longing,
They were living together but a world apart, searching
For something to seduce them, a crown to anchor them
From the force that pulled and pushed them apart,
She was Marcie in her coat of flowers, dusting tables
With his shirt, just like you foretold, and he the fool
Trying to satisfy her by filleting her fish for her friends
To eat, concocting cakes of chocolate towers to sooth
Untapped temptations, too tempting to be taken.
They were Adam and Eve, teasing each other
Without promises, naked on hissing lawns, brother
And sister, devouring early orchards of adulthood.

They played in Paris, that pair, carrying cases
Of choruses to back street bars, decorated
In shadow and light, like you too, in Canadian days,
Cascading blonde curiosities before the camera
Found you and music makers moulded you
Into all you never wanted, never treasured,
The pleasure to try ‘em, the trouble to leave ‘em,
They knew nothing, either, about the want
But the spotlight, it was tempting, back then,
The applause, the rounds resounding, you said,
But she was more classic than celtic, more Mitchell
Than McCarthy, the green fields were almost foreign
To the fairytale Irish drifter and her keyboard carrying
Pansy who missed nothing of the cow shite and
Colleens of their native land. They were deserters
In post war days, fleeing only peace and potatoes,
Looking for a longing to dissipate complacency,
They’d been train travellers, plane passengers,
Black crows with sights on something shiny,
Motivated movers, climbing corners to catch a taste,
A scent of what was yet to be and they found each other
Like that, bold, bare and brave for a while,
On their templed street, she was his Sharon
And he, the Joni, but they were destined
For only a 45, no 33 long player and the needle
Cut through the rhapsody that ruffled them,
Aroused them, but they were too lost in the song
To notice they were singing a solo now, serenading
Themselves in a self-important spotlight, red is
Angry, green is jealous, or so you said, so she fled
The tower and left him with Joni on the mantelpiece
Singing;
‘I can’t go back there anymore
You know my keys won’t fit the door
You know my thoughts don’t fit the man
They never can, they never can.’

 

All words and artwork by Damien B. Donnelly with a helping of Joni too.

CINQUAIN IN FRANCE

I see
In a vast bar
On the edge of my past
A boy so lost amid the crowd
And you,

There was,
In the mayhem,
A sense of happening,
A feeling of the familiar
In you,

Brown shirt
And dark blue jeans,
Gaze so deep to drown in
And a gentleness that caught me
Unaware,

In truth,
I had not seen
Or noticed you come in
But from the moment I saw you
I knew,

You were
The smile I sought,
The acceptance I craved,
The friendship I needed to find
At last,

I was
The curious
Little bird who’d found flight
And a place to perch in Paris
But then
In France
I was foreign,
A fool to fortitude
And invisible to all eyes
But yours,

I found
As time trickled
A fondness in that find,
A connection in the chaos
To last
Past boys
And men who came
To try us and test us
To see us laugh and to see us
Fall down.

I will
In these few lines
Try my best to thank you
For taking the time to see me
Back then,

The smile
That you offered
On that night, in that bar
Made a fearful foreign young boy
Feel home.

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