BETWEEN THE COURSES AND THE CLOTH

 

Gracious and godly, if I recall correctly,
you sat stocky at the table and told us
your passions for paintings and pretty
things and how you’d fallen often, of late,
on bended knee over a foreign body
to worship the whole beauty of his being.
I was shy of 20 at the time, new to dating
and dinner decorum and you- new to me
in this costume of finicky dinner guest.

I recalled you instantly from years earlier
in your work clothes, but said nothing
of how I myself had come to bow
on bended knee before you, confessing
my dirty poor boy childhood secrets
of curses and disrespecting my elders,
in that parish you described over pre-
dinner drinks as devoid of any delights.

I remembered you most as angry man,
sharp like a stick that knew how to smack-
clearly chocked by the confines of that collar,
cursing from the pulpit when babies cried
during your long, slow moving soliloquy’s
of the suffering saint stripped on the cross
and all us sinners, all smelly in their seats.

I wondered, in between the forgotten entree
and the main course of stuffed pheasant,
what it took to be a man of the cloth
in a modern age while I was listening
to your collarless sermon at that table,
after you’d turned to be someone else’s
parish priest, the night you regaled us with tales
of the ring you wore on a recent Vatican visit-
pierced in pride of place beneath that very cloth. 

  

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

IN THE PLACE OF WHAT ONCE STOOD

 

Robin rummages in the rushes,
upon rock she roots out traces
of all that once was, tuts at all
that has changed and all that hasn’t.

Robin rummages in the rushes,
bright spark- but fast to flight.
She comes to call and comprehend
but never comes when she is called.

A fluttering of fine feathers
on front of old familiar fields
where the tracks have been pulled,
where all prints have been ploughed

but there are marks, still- fine folds
where the grass leans in, just so,
in suggestion of what once stood
in its way, of what once stood

in the field, beyond the rushes,
just a recall beyond the rock
where robin comes to rummage.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

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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