THE ANNUAL OFFERING OF ATTENDANCE

We sit in rows, in reverie, with reverence,
neighbour to defender and defiant,
some say the saved above and the rest below,
new coat and scarf on the shoulders of one,
the timings of the turkey and its trimmings
in the head of another, already ticking,
already thinking of some other wonder
needing worship while the choir continue
to carol higher than some notes should be heard,
not all those singing have a sense of themselves,
minds are off on soufflés instead of solos
and outside the bandstand plays an empty tune.
We speak in tongues, thoughts we were taught,
lessons that were learnt; that protection from all anxiety
and yet pills rattle in my pocket, no talk of the patterns
we discovered, no pause to the path we paved
beyond this parish and its prejudices,
its own pockets filled with coins that don’t jingle,
my tongue now tickles other languages,
in other fields I felt I had to find freedom in;
that kingdom, that power and that glory,
my tongue still tackles, in these times, the old ways,
the old words since thought to be too confusing,
service is now simplified to satisfy this new society
of social-media mongers in the spotlight
of the internet and the camera rolls for those
who could no longer find a foothold in their home
and across the empty bandstand a wall recalls
the names of those who fought the fight
one Easter, once remembered, now forgotten,
when we wanted to be a Republic, a Nation,
a Brotherhood, an allegiance and not just a flock
of flag waving celebrities. We sit in rows at the beck
and call of the rising and the falling, being forced
backwards into an innocence we believed
was beyond question when Adam gave Eve
a rib and a virgin gave birth to a baby
they hung on a cross. Some are still nailed
to the truth of the church as much as one man
was nailed to the wood he once carved,
one sacrificed for the sin of us all and the others
sacrificed to be sinners ever after. We sit in rows
where the wafers choke us on the truth
while the bandstand’s tune has been forsaken
and no closeted confession to a priest still closeted
into conformity will ever bring the names of the souls
on the Easter wall back to life on this Christmas Eve.
And the priest leaves us with a joke
and I wonder if he can see the irony behind the idolatry.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

FERTILE FIELDS

 

Around me, like a blanket,
nature wraps its scent
of bush and bark,
of fertile soil,

as if I am the tree
and comfort comes
from fragile foliage

folding into colours
that glisten like gold
over crisp blades
of cut grass

that feel like velvet
beneath my feet
and I thread softly
and I move carefully

like the compassionate clouds overhead.

Before me with roots
deeper than time
a tree stands tall
entangled with memories

with madness,
with a sadness
that cannot be buried,
that cannot be wrapped
in a blanket.

We plant our past in fertile fields
and water them with our tears

in the hope for a brighter future.

 

This field, in Parc de Sceaux, in a southern suburb of Paris, is the site of the Mémorial de la Shoah, a memorial to the deportation of the Jewish during World War II.

All words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

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