SHADOW AND LIGHT

At 22,
I knew as much of myself
As the exotic world
I’d just found
With streets willing me
To walk them
Witness them
And be wooed by them.
My twenties
Had typically emerged
As a decade to be a no one;
An empty slate to be carved upon
Before my thirties would find me
And shout me with substance.

I’d lost parents
Before knowing them; given up
In a sacrifice of selflessness
Almost incomprehensible
And found
In the arms of another mother
A love that would prove
Incontestable.

I searched,
During infantile years,
Amid childish ego
And innocence,
For connections
To those around me;
The mother
Loved so unequivocally
And the father
Aged in aggression,
With a gap too great to bridge
And so I turned to walk
Shadowy miles of roads in my head,
Clumsily cramming teenage years
With classically confusing
Childish dribble,
Trying to sound like a grown-up
In size 6 shoes,
Feeling different,
Unknown,
And, more often than not,
Undiscovered.

Finally,
I braved knocks on dark doors-
Frequented bars in back lanes
And alley ways,
Away from the eyes of the pious
Whose ignorance
Bullied the boys
With different desires.
I kissed
My first boy
At 18
Behind a sofa
As excited as a child
On Christmas morning,
Finding courage
Behind shades and acceptance
In a community I had become
No longer
Soul member of.

Cuddling and kissing progressed,
Over time, to sweaty,
Fumbling, amateur athletics
Behind the lights
Replacing shame and catholic guilt
With newfound feelings of freedom
As I began
To notch my way
Onto bedposts
Of various conquests.

Between courtings
I often cried
For lovers in whose arms
I should never have laid
And wondered why I ran
From others in whose embrace
I should have stayed,
All but memories
Patterned into the tissue
Of my sleeve-worn,
Still learning, heart,
Cherished moments
That wished to be relived
Along with others
That longed for time to fade.

I had assumed these
To be bruises
As I fell upon these new
Foreign streets
But have recognised them since
To be no more than lifelines,
Imprints, echoes merely of
Shadow and light.

They were all
Important diversions
Along the road,
Pivotal points
Goading me
Into this very direction.
Some of them
Fell away by your banks
And others settled in,
Ingrained themselves like streets
That mapped themselves
Out in front of me
And gradually,
Over time,
Carved their way
Indelibly
Inside of me.

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Pride and Prejudice, Beating the Bullies

A word to the ghosts of schoolyard bullies- Pity be the Preposterous, for profanity perishes before it prevails.

Damien B. Donnelly

I crept through corridors
Crying as a kid
In the corruption of
Cusses and curses,
Cruel and cringeworthy
Comments carried on carelessly
As comedy from cunning clowns
Whose calculus capabilities
Calculated to nothing more than
Calamitous catastrophes.
And so, to cover up this calamity,
I became their casualty,
Caught up in a cross fire
Of uncultured and uncultivated contempt,
Considering themselves
Capable comedians
And casting me center court
As their callous words
Cut and crippled me,
Corroding the core
Into a clunk of inescapable
And incomprehensible confusions,
Casting a cloud on every class,
A crisis in every playground,
And causing countless
Creative excuses
For cutting school
And cowering
In the cowardice
Of my cursed
Conviction.

You frightened
The fuck out of this
Fellow you named faggot
For nothing more than fun
And festered no more in me
Than a fear for feelings
I was far too young
To figure or…

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Pride and Prejudice, Beating the Bullies

I crept through corridors
Crying as a kid
In the corruption of
Cusses and curses,
Cruel and cringeworthy
Comments carried on carelessly
As comedy from cunning clowns
Whose calculus capabilities
Calculated to nothing more than
Calamitous catastrophes.
And so, to cover up this calamity,
I became their casualty,
Caught up in a cross fire
Of uncultured and uncultivated contempt,
Considering themselves
Capable comedians
And casting me center court
As their callous words
Cut and crippled me,
Corroding the core
Into a clunk of inescapable
And incomprehensible confusions,
Casting a cloud on every class,
A crisis in every playground,
And causing countless
Creative excuses
For cutting school
And cowering
In the cowardice
Of my cursed
Conviction.

You frightened
The fuck out of this
Fellow you named faggot
For nothing more than fun
And festered no more in me
Than a fear for feelings
I was far too young
To figure or fathom,
Forcing me to fight
For a freedom I felt
I freely deserved
But fortune falsely favoured
Fools, back then,
The faculty of footballers
Whose fractions fired
Fantastical favouritism,
The fundamental flaw of the feeble,
And frowned on frail fairies
Who followed the rules
But failed to find
Firm footing
On the field.

I drifted
Through dark days
That dug their way
Into darker nights,
Where dreams drew you
As demons
Distastefully delegated
To degrade me,
Deflate me, detest me,
Depict me
As depraved
Despicable deviant.
I didn’t know
That I’d dared to be
That different
Though I thought myself,
Even then,
More deserving
Than the deluge
Of your devilishly displaced
Discrimination.

I wonder now
If you’ve been
Withered and wizened
By your wicked ways?
Have you watched the world
And witnessed it grow?
How is the grown-up now,
Grown up?
Grown gradually good,
Greater, grateful
Or just more greasy,
Grim and grotesque?

Do they still bark of your bravado
Behind the bikes sheds,
In the bar rooms,
At the ball games?

I am better now,
Brighter and braver,
Reborn from the bullied boy
You couldn’t break,
Built a backbone in spite of all your backlash.
I am better balanced now
And see your barbarian banter
As nothing more than beastly, base, banality.
I am beyond your belligerent beliefs now,
And have broken
From the blemishes
You bored into me,
Bored me with,
By your bigoted bitterness,
Through your blackened brutishness
And see the blasphemy
Not in how bent I was
But in the bloodthirsty bully
The boisterous brotherhood
Begged you to become.

I have since grown
And gained
In all the gaiety
That a graceful God
Once gave me
And I see now,
Nothing more,
Nothing much,
Nothing lasting
In the power
You once pretended to possess
over my Pride and your Prejudice.

Pity be the preposterous
For profanity perishes before it prevails.

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To the Days- Present and Past

If I looked back

At you

Today,

As who I now am,

Would you still recognize me?

Could you still see in me

The one you hoped,

Back then,

To become?

That shy,

Quiet

And frightened boy-

So often alone,

A step behind the shadows

And I’m still not sure

If it was where you wanted

To be

Or the only place

To hide.

You built a world

Within those bedroom walls

And seemed to dream up

Lifetimes

Before you actually learned

To live,

Where you escaping

The quarreling voices

Downstairs

Or just avoiding the

Feelings inside?

On my knee,

Over grown, over time

With dark brown hairs,

There still lies

The white scar you made there

When you fell at 10

From road to curb-

Do you remember?

On my forehead,

Now higher-

And with less hair than before-

That tiny mark

From the collision

With head and pillar

In the driveway,

Sunday morning,

After Mass,

At 12,

In the rain.

On my right foot,

Underside-

Just below the ball,

I can still feel the stab

Of the nail

You walked on-

Back garden,

Mid summer,

In the middle of the game,

Unimaginable pain.

Does this help

To remind you

Of who I was

And so recognize

Who I’ve become?

I remember

Your fears

Back then-

Are you there yet?

Are they slowly

Taking over and tucking in-

Reverting spoken words to

But thinking thoughts?

Has it begun yet

To creep along your skin,

At night,

After the bullying boys

In the day?

Those days that

Tore from you

Everything that school

Should have offered

And replaced it

With the fear

Of the next push or shove,

Spit or jeer.

That time when sick days

Became more common

To the week

Than saturdays,

When bedrooms

Were the sanctuary

And playgrounds

The prison.

There are no scars

On my skin,

Today,

Of those milestones

But you know

I am marked

Because of them,

Nonetheless.

Perhaps you are a little older-

Passed along into

Those teenage years

When prayers

Were piled

Onto fucked-up feelings

And the complexities of

Sexual awakenings.

All those years

Of wanting for myself

To be

Nothing more

Than normal,

Nothing to note me

The Nancy,

Nothing to notice me

Different.

Nothing to make me feel alone

In a world

I’d barely experienced,

In a body

Barely developed,

In a mind

Still grasping at straws-

Feeling broken before begun.

How would it feel to know, now

And carry it back to then,

That I’ve loved-

Openly and freely

Exactly as I’ve wanted,

Who I wanted

And when I wanted?

Would it comfort you

To know that when the secret’s

Out

You’ll start to wonder

What the worry was about?

In time-

Awaiting you

On the eve of 18-

Even those you imagined

To be your greatest enemies

Will become your biggest supporters.

Let me shout you aware

That you were the only one

To ever really cast yourself out-

During all those years

When you locked yourself in.

Believe me,

Truly,

When the shadows

Loose their attraction-

The light shifts

In your favor.

I remember

How old you felt

When you were young-

Smiling outwardly

To hide the secret within.

Dear child,

Brave one-

Would you laugh

At me now

If I told you

How young I feel

Now that I’m old-

Perhaps the final rewards

Of secrets having been told.

Would you recognize me

If we met right now,

Face to face,

Boy to Man?

I think us more now

A united part of each other

Than ever before

And I smile happily at

My integration,

At last,

Of those days-

Present and past.

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Fool’s Kingdom

I am frequently fool:

Folly of fearful affection,

Fading fast behind a closed door

With key in hand-

My own hand.

Unseen,

Untouched,

Craving to be held,

But afraid to be found,

Figured out,

As failure, freak, fanatic fool.

I am boy grown man,

Growing old, going grey-

Recedingly so-

And all in the blink of my eye.

Am I really

That unrecognized reflection

In the mirror,

Staring back at me-

Questioningly?

Skipping, slipping, sliding,

Fidgeting,

Foolishly falling forward

Into a future-

Though of what?

I’ve been Dublin born,

Bullied and bored;

The bashful boy

Who never understood why the big boys pushed him,

The artistic child

Who painted a world where everyone loved him,

The boy child

Who never saw the streets as fair as the songs all painted,

Who only saw the limits and restrictions of an island-

Isolated.

The growing boy-

Who finally fell distracted by the body of man

And the feel of it’s touch,

Mostly mistaking momentary fumblings

To be romantic ever-afters,

But they were mainly misjudged minutes of madness-

More ‘Always Ending’ than ‘Everlasting’-

Learning curves,

Bathing pools,

Energetic experiments

And sweaty seductions

After too much booze

And mixed with pocketfuls

Of inexperienced,

Overly enthused

Disney-like

Naivety.

I remember laughing the first time he undressed me,

Crying the first time I came,

And settling in when I should have been leaving.

I thought me broken hearted-

But it was not so,

Could not,

Never have been-

You need to know the heart

Before it can break

And this man child had yet to meet

The beat that bleed him.

And so,

It was the first full stop,

Dublin Done.

Moving on…

Amid cobbled streets

And Marais magic

The boy became truly man-

Removed, replaced,

Relocated,

Refreshed- alone,

No longer island bound

No longer thought to be ‘Known’ by the common crowd.

A new kingdom- to find freedom in-

Lay await at my feet

And there I was,

Suddenly,

In the middle of it all

And-

Drowning,

Mistaking myself

to be Ardent Adventurer!

Explorer Extraordinaire!

How I’d convinced myself that

Fly on the wall, watching, dictating, reporting

Was so much more important to an aspiring artist

Than a dived in, soaked up, part of it all, competitor!

And then time, slowly,

Unbeknownst to me,

Drew me out,

Pulled me in,

Lessened my wide-eyed glare,

Cleaned my cumbersome and clumsy character

And left me

Grown,

As we do,

Totally unaware

Not able to pinpoint the very moment,

Or time,

Or place

That it happened-

It was just there-

I could feel it,

I caught it in my own reflection

Within the eyes of other men-

Bigger men,

Older men,

Grown men,

Who now seemed not so different any more,

And in that reflection

I fell surprised,

Shocked

Because nothing had changed in that person that stared back at me

But somehow,

Inexpressibly,

Everything was different.

There have been, of course,

Other lands,

Other men,

Many moments of madness,

Sadness,

Gladness.

Touches and tendernesses.

Lovers I’ve left and

Friends that I’ve lost

But they are, so often,

Like time- all fleeting,

They do not stay for long-

Forever is not for everyone.

But in my heart-

Which is now known

And heard

And occasionally understood-

There is the place for those

Who indeed have proved

Irreplaceable-

The pillars upon which I gaze

And markers toward that life

I wish to lead.

They are crowning

A new King, today

In this foreign City

That somehow,

Over time,

Has found its way to be familiar-

And I think somewhere

Amid it’s watery streets

Lies my future in waiting.

And, as I dress by the mirror,

On April’s last dawning,

I wonder to myself

As I catch that reflection-

Still so familiarly different-

When next will I feel

More King

In me

Than fool.

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