PARIS PAST; YEARS GO BY

 

Years go by
and I’m still here, remembering.
Years flying by feeling like minutes in my mind;
a decade lost in the passing,
like I’ve fallen forward through a gap in time.
Years in between
and yet that first morning still so fresh,
waking up into a home I’d gate crashed;
the Irish abroad; Jeannie,
with the flaming red hair and welcoming hug,
a son in the shadows of another country
and a daughter to fall in love with were I straight.

Unable to forget
those heated floors boards,
the note of good morning in the kitchen,
the crispy toast from a packet,
the tiled green bathroom, separate toilet
and back to the bathroom to wash hands.
The plant filled balcony,
those frosted glass doors which echoed
through the apartment as you opened them,
so mundane and ordinary
and yet so much more a part of me now
than those trivial things ever where then,
long before they became a memory to cling to,
to cherish.

I hold on to so much more now
than I ever thought possible or considered important;
the feel, the taste, the smell,
like those disgruntled old madams
who threw water from their balconies every morning,
clocked in sombre shades of black
and scowling at passers-by like me
for the demise of their youth
and their looks.

I can recall,
as if it were yesterday,
those precious summer mornings that soon followed,
the air filling with the fragrance of freshly baked croissants
as boulangeries opened their bell-ringing doors
to delighted strains of bonjour and ca’va.
Years, reaped upon years
but I still smell it as fresh now
as the day was new.

I can hear those familiar sounds of kids,
singing out in ignorant celebrations of their youth
but always hidden from view behind high walls of stone.
Paris; the city for artists,
Intellects and the amourouse,
where children are heard but rarely seen.
No tantrums in stores, no snotty noses in bistros,
no changing of nappies in sight.
Our Lady of Magic was fully grown, fully developed,
no question of who She was or where She was going.
This City was born dressed in Chanel attire
with precious pearls to match,
born a proud, free speaking, free thinking,
pompous, confident adult, without question.
Her raison d’etre;
Herself entirely.

And there I stood
in the middle of it all
trying to find my own trend
and set a route amid multitude of pathways I longed to explore,
get lost in, fall in love in
and find adventure in.

Time slips away
but it somehow leaves a part of me still there,
somewhere, wandering through covered passageways
packed with marionette cheaters and tiny trinket stores
watched over by age old glass ceilings,
discovering underground chambers of sewers and tombs,
lost generations of the past,
slipping unnoticed through graveyards of forgotten faces
and heralded names decorated with weeping women,
stone eyed Madonna’s and cast-iron wings, never to fly,
remembering those I’d never known
and wondering who’d remember me,
sitting by Seurat to make connections in his colours
and wondering what Mr. Wilde
would make of us now.

Years gone by
and I still go back there;
left side, art style, boho chic,
where Oscar last laughed
and Sartre sighed
and I remember who I was,
laugh at who I’ve become
and wonder why I’ve fled so far
from the city that never changes
whilst I never stop.

Saturday afternoons, after lazy lie-in’s
rising through the cobbled hills
of once moulin covered Montmartre
with Abi’s and Vincent’s and Yasmine’s and Shaun’s,
where artists ghosts,
intoxicated by the green fairy’s potent mix
and the ruffling of high kicking can-can skirts
would swept through air
that you had only to touch to feel a part of,
while tourists flocked to pick up
as many copies and replicas as they could carry
without so much as breathing in
all that surrounded them for free.
I was a free man in Paris too, my dear Joni,
and have wandered down that Champs Elysees
in search of those I once knew and cared for
and loved and lost.

Years outrun years
but I can still close my eyes
and feel the sun on my skin
as we filled Victor’s fine square with resounding laughter
that soared around the fountains
and columns and palaces fit for queens.
14th of July ’98, Champ du mars,
Three tenors, fireworks, Mary and me
and a thousand others.
We were the luckiest in the world.

I can see myself at 23,
cast bright in the lamp lights
that I sailed past on the back of a motorbike
tearing through world of Hemingway
on the slumbering market street of Rue Mouffetard
before the bank side approached
and Notre Dame lay reflected in the sleeping waters.
My arms wrapped tight around my leather clad driver
with Spanish blood and gallic looks,
willing to show me it all.

The years may continue to build on years,
time will continue to tick-tock away,
but there are lifetimes in moments
which years can do nothing to suppress
or erase if the heart wills
not to forget.

marydami 002
 
All Words and, almost all, photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 

SUNSHINE AND SNOWFLAKES IN MONTMARTRE

sunshine and snowflakes in montmartre

I climbed you today
in downpours
and falling snows,
no snow flake ever the same,
no foot step ever similar,
I climbed you today
in sunlight and stealing shadows,
in strokes of paint splattered in your memory
by artists as foreign as they are familiar,
I paused upon your steps,
your streets of steps,
the steep steps
others have taken,
others have trodden upon,
to take possession,
to take pictures,
to take part, to be a part
of all that once was
and has fallen to dust
through depression
and recession,
no sails blow no longer
to the winds wills,
the winds upon your hills
no longer home to the mills,
no more the spirits linger
green to the fairy’s touch,
spirits are in bottles now,
corked and capped
and cost too much
and the artists now
are but a shadow
of what once was,
shadows for sale
on the site of what once held cause,
on this martyred mountain
in Montmartre.
I climbed you today
in wind and rain,
the past and future present,
in a reverie of what can no longer be.
I climbed you and stood above you
and marked out the steps
I had taken along you,
along your lines and lanes
that lead me here, to this day,
to this moment, to this place
as this snowflake fell,
this unique particle
never to be repeated,
falling through time and space.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 

 

CHEZ MOI

 

I release you
From the obsession,
From the overly long
Ogles of observation,
Trepidation
And a grass,
Seemingly green,
Long since remembered.

You are no longer
That deep desire
In the distant darkness,
Distracting me,
Daring me
To deploy,
To defect,
To retour.

That significant
Substance
Shimmering
In the shadows,
Swaying slowly,
Seducing me,
Enticing me.

I release you
From the waking dream
And the nocturnal rêver,
The phantom waiting
For the return
And the temptation
Teasing me
With time.
The illusions
That eluded me
In waking light,
The visions
Deceiving me
In the shade of night.

You are no longer
The haunting hunger,
The taste of what once was,
What still could be,
That insatiable need
Never fully quenched,
Never truly tested.

You are now no longer obsession,
You are now just a place called home.

 

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 10, PORTUGAL, PEACE AND…

 

Scene in Europe, Scene 10, Portugal, Peace and…

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Henry spent the first two days of the Portugal leg of his trip in Lisbon, amid a wave of modern architecture in stark contrast with its older, neighbouring terracotta rooftops of charm and a sea of towering cranes best seen from the sleek cable-stayed Vasco da Gama Bridge while he satisfied his appetite with an array of fish dishes and an impressive selection of wines from the region but, after two days of hectic life in another city, he craved something a little more remote, so he hired a car and took to the hills and valleys and happily lost himself along country roads twirling through the landscape of forest covered mountains, tiny, almost deserted towns and sprawling vineyards that crept their way over the scenery as he coasted past it all.

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He stopped, finally, at the Pousada Convento Vila Pouca da Beira, a place that had quite literally been chosen for him when he fell upon it during a spectacular rainstorm; a white beacon of hope in the early evening’s sudden downpour, with it’s huge cross and flickering lanterns on either side of its front door, a vision of sanctuary that came out of nowhere as his wipers frantically swept across the windscreen of the car just as he’d started to worry that finding a decent place to stay, in the middle of nowhere, in this erratic weather, might prove positively impossible.

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As he slowed the car down and turned into the cobbled courtyard, the building and its adjoining church loomed over him in the darkness, looking haunted, naturally, but somehow cosy too, austere, yet comforting at the same time.

It turned out to be one of a chain of hotels all established in former convents or historical buildings throughout the country, hence its name. But it’s timing and arrival along Henry’s route was nothing less than a miracle. The large entrance door had just clanged shut behind him when the heavens finally crashed with thunder and, as he was lead to his room, past an inner courtyard and up a huge marble staircase with enormous tapestries and a thousand shadows that loomed ominously, the lightening clashed with the blackness of the night sky and echoed through the hallows of the building itself, giving an eerie uncertainty to the shapes, columns, corners and stone eyed angels that decorated the walls, lingering in shadows, waiting for the next bolt of lighting to announce their spooky presence.

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The room itself was basic but spacious and, when morning woke him, he opened the doors, stepped onto his balcony and took in the breathtaking view that spread itself out before him. The rain had washed away the shadows and the landscape now sparkled in a million shades of vibrant, life affirming greens as a scent swept through the air of the bounty of nature’s freshness, crispness and energy while below him, fresh coffee was brewing which enticed him back through the same corridors, inner courtyard and down the same glorious staircase which had been home only to ghosts and shadows the night before, but which was now bathed in its own glow of morning light as antique treasures glistened in their own grandeur before he took a seat on the empty terrance overlooking the lushness and life of the whole valley.

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It was silent, he was silent, the whole world was silent as he sat himself down. It was exactly what he had needed after almost a month of being constantly on-the-go; looking, searching, rushing, seducing, being seduced, being let down. A time of huge highs and a few comical lows. A time to become a man, he though as he figuratively tapped himself on the back. He had secretly feared the trip to Europe, all by himself. He hadn’t even travelled in the States without the boozed-up comfort of his often out-of-it mother, the occasionally present father or just on the road with his own friends, at the very least. But this trip had been his test, his personal journey, his own awakening. And boy, oh boy, was he beginning to feel awake.

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He sipped his coffee, looking down over the vineyard that grew out from the end of the gardens by swimming pool of the former convent before it disappeared into the forest below it, just as the land rose up to greet the sky, sighing in the welcome return of the sun after a night of unimaginable rain which seemed like a dream now on front of this view; this mirage of tranquil wilderness. The car had been pounded so heavily with rain that he’d feared for his own safely along the tiny, mud soaked road the night before, so when he’d seen the light, literally, at the end of the road, he’d stopped the car and knocked on the door without a single care as to who or what answered. He’d already seen the ghosts of Europe, bold and brazen and tempting him on streets in broad daylight. What was wrong with another one or two to add to his list?

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But surprisingly, in a place that looked more welcoming to the afterlife, even with its own gated old chapel in the basement, a crucifix on every available wall, and saints, carefully carved in stone, perched in every nook and cranny, the only souls that lingered about were living, breathing ones; smiling, nodding and giving off not a single scent of the scary.

The only Portuguese visions he saw came from nature itself as he wandered down the hills, amid the vines, and over fences to open pastures with grazing sheep and sleeping cows. The only smells he noticed sprang up from either the dew in the morning or out of every oven; simple roadside restaurants with the best roast chicken he’d ever tasted, deliciously fragrant cheeses from goats and sheep that came in clumps and spread itself over bread like butter or the traditional mini custard tarts, pasteis de nata, which was the one thing that haunted him as their delicate taste lingered on the tongue long after he’d finished them.

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It was life and it was his for the tasting, his for the taking, his for the smelling, he said to himself as he swaggered nakedly over to his bed as the open window let a gentle, warm breeze blow in past the curtains and he turned off the light and slipped his youthful, unlined body beneath the folds of the perfectly crisp hotel sheets. He closed his eyes and let his head nestle into the soft pillow, sensing sleep lean in to take him just as a hand reached over behind him, beneath the constriction of the blankets, and ran its icy cold, fine, foreign fingers up along his spine while his entire body froze in fear and the window slammed shut as the scent of death crept along his flared and frightened nostrils…

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All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly