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

TURBULENT SACRIFICE

 

Mama was an unmarried mother
at the end of the summer of 75
as Joni hissed of the snakes
in the gardens of complacency
where ignorance was still very much alive.

Mama was only a girl in the growing
and possibly no more than just 18
when she bent down and placed
a kiss on my cheek and whispered
goodbye to her own little green.

Mama is someone who I’ve never met
aside from the dream I once had
of her life in a kingdom that ruled
you could not mother a child unless
at first you were a legitimate wife.

Mama was an unmarried girl one winter
in the arms of a man barely stretched
from a boy, her trust in the throws
that left little to believe in and a pain
that pulled on the strings of goodbye.

Mama was once an unmarried mother
and bursting with thoughts her shape
couldn’t hide, but helpless and hopeless
were not part of her form and so she did
what she could when you can’t be the bride.

Mama was a childless woman
when winter that year came cold with its calling,

and the tears started breaking
and the leaves began falling

like the water that had broken,
like the hold that had not held,
like the hope that was drowned,
and the hand that was expelled…

too short, too quick, too hard,
too much to let go for good

and the snakes started hissing on the lawns.

Mamma was the unmarried mother
who gave me the greatest gift
that anyone could, of growing up
knowing that what she had done
was to give me up for a greater good.

     

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

This is a repost form my Joni Mitchell series.

Last month I added my name to the National Adoption Contact Preference Register in Ireland. Maybe the story still has a tale to be told, time will tell…

Sometimes knowing where you came from gives you an idea of where to go. This coming December, after 23 years living abroad, I will move to Ireland to start a whole new adventure in my home country that now feels like an exciting new land waiting to be discovered. I am looking back, at the moment, but seeing in that vision, only where the future will take me. Thanks to you all for listening on along the way,

Love Dami xx

BLACK THREADS

 

Worthy.
Are we worthy? Are you?
I am not worthy to receive you.
I am not worthy.

These are not the words
of any wizard, of any wonder,
of any wonderful god.

Wonderful does not whip us with worthless.
Wonderful does not teach worthless words.

Worthy.
I am not worthy…
These are the words of men
dressed in robes; black threads
woven over winged capes (not that dark knight bearing light)
not dressed as plain men,
preachers married to invisible faiths,
not married to people,
not knowing true love
or what remains after its loss.

Worthy.
Are we worthy, Are you?
Lord, they are not worthy
to speak for me, not in my name
and not, either, in yours.

Worthy.
Were they not worthy,
those wards your black winged women
washed away in the water?
Where is the worth in the world?
I thought laundries
were meant to clean clothes
not suffocate babies in sewers
beneath the shadows.
Was it worth it?
All that worry washed away with the waste.

Worthy?
Lord, here is my worth.
I place it, next to their judgement,
by your feet
and you can decide what has worth
and whose words are worthless
as I reteach myself the value of that single word
in this complicated world,
as I build my own words to be a witness
to losing the less and seeing the more,
I will be my own critic
keeping the Christian and shaking the ‘anity’
that lingers too close to insanity.

Worthy.
I hear only the devil in my head
whispering of worthless.
Surely the right man should be brighter,
lighter?

Worthy.
Here is my worth…

thread carefully upon it,
not like the prints the pious
already pressed into it
from their proud position
behind the pulpit.

I live in the wild world, not privy to any protection.

Worthy.
Are they worthy to receive me?
I profess this belief, to you.
Alone.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

26th poem for National Poetry Writing Month

THE DREAM; SUNDAY NIGHT, ALMOST LIGHT

 

The Dream; Sunday Night, Almost Light.

I dream of dark nights
that cannot hold their identity tight,
that break into tight pieces of light
when mind succumbs to dream’s dimension
and stumbles (still sweaty under sheets)
upon hidden altar in open field,
light cast as day amid dark of night,
depth of dream, this stone altar cast of granite grey
and cold where congregation gathers,
each pebble imprinted with the palm
of every parishioner now present before me,
though I know no rock embedded in this sacrificial table
(where body is broken and blood is drunk)
is a captor to my own print
because still I sleep somewhere
above the grey clouds turning translucent
like my skin in this dream
and grass burning green behind the hazel of my eyes
that know this sight is not sound in sense.
Children come to candle
and their faith gives way to flames fired from fingers
in this field of unfavourable familiarity,
in this night of broken light
where community comes together to confess,
confide, comfort or criticize my coming.


I dream of day borne in a twist of still night,
stilled light, still strange in fields I’ve flown from
and now flung back to where heads turn
below those clouds, low and grey, baying,
still grey, stilled breath, as if all colour
(except the growing grey and grinding green)
have not yet been considered.
Stony eyes, cast in concrete that could crush,
cower upon my questioning
of how I fled so far from all that stands so close.


I dream of dark nights
on old roads I could walk blindly,
your cold caress of cross now left behind me
in that stone-cold field now returning to shadow
that the night somehow chose to light for me,
I shiver beneath the darkness,
on this shady street where I stand
and somewhere, in the distance, in the bed,
I lie looking for shelter beneath my blanket of sleep.
I come upon a clearing,
a turning, a returning, I am home,
not my home but a house called home,
that old home I no longer hold the keys to
(though my pockets tingle with too many connections
to other doors now closed).
But it is the home recalled
only in photographs now fading,
not in the building still standing,
a meander of the memory
I barely have the right to call mine
like this skin turning translucent,
twisting off the bone, falling and fading
from a form I seem to not recognize in this sleep.
Still, I search in pockets
hoping to pull out not another cross
to carry on shoulder, to bear down on this tight chest,
growing tighter under this night, now darker,
on this dark night once somehow light,
in this twisting dream
I am both aware of and oblivious to.
I find no key or single soulful saviour
in this starless night,
even the simple sailor had at least the stars
when lost at sea, what hope is there to be found
when one is lost in the dream
he never deemed desirable to dream?

__
And I stop,
time stops, breath stops.
I stop on front of open door,
wide open in this still night,
still a dream, still asleep,
but I did not open the door,
I did not break handle upon floor
or toss dishes from dresser
or painting from wall.
I did not.
I did not ache for the field
or the weary worshipers watching me
find footing upon a land that has forgotten my print,
whose eyes still creep across my flesh,
sensing its scent to be something foreign,
something to fear.
I did not come willingly
within this nightmare
to stand before this open door,
this battered threshold,
this scene that has lost all soul.
I did not come to drown within the dream
but then came the scream,
behind my ears,
tearing through this dark night,
dark dream, once for a time light,
that scream creeping along the covers,
slipping through time and its displaced dimensions
and settling upon my mouth as I open my eyes
from all that was a dream,
open eyes to the sound of my own scream
beneath the stilled light,
filled with a stilled fright,
below the darkness
that uncovers the stillness of this night,
almost light.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

CREATION IS FALLING

 

There are shadows falling
shifting suspicions into shapes
there are shadows falling
features fading into fears

There are shadows falling

There are dreams waking
as babies sleep under blankets
there are dreams waking
as stars diminish in darkening skies

There are dreams disappearing
within an impossible reality

There are shadows in dreams
there is no light in the darkness
there are shadows in dreams
there is no comfort in revenge

There are dreams
falling all around us
there is hope dying
in bombs and bullets and blood
there is a darkness
draining the daylight

There is no longer light
There is no longer comfort

There is only chaos
and creation is crying
and society is dying

Surely this is not the truth
Surely this is not the dream
Surely this is not life

my life
your life
the cost of life
the loss of life

There is a fear
wrapped around us
cloaking us
choking us
it flows through us
like a venom, vicious
making us victims
to our own vices
making us suspicious
of neighbouring races

It is drowning us
poisoning all possibility

There are shadows falling
dealing out devisions
shifting suspicions into shapes
and turning innocent into ashes

 

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly.

The War Of the Worlds

How did it feel to hang

By nails

And wait for a death

You were born to endure?

Created by The Father

As a symbol

Of His power

To save

A crumbling humanity.

He gave you life

For it to be ripped from your body.

No saving grace for you,

No end to the pain,

No Lord to help you.

The Father,

The Protector,

The Divine Creator

Silently watching

As your human pain

Pours

From your human body.

Did you suffer a lifetime

For every second

That you remained

In that earthly body,

Punctured by earthly hands,

Jeered by earthly voices,

Cried for by earthly women?

Did Mary know the gift

Weaned upon her bosom

Would depart this world so heinously?

Did She trust

In the promise of Heaven,

Did She believe

In the prophecy of Angels-

Even at the end

When your screams

Shuck the Heavens?

Did you question your Father’s promise

Of a seat by His side

While the cold nails

Split your flesh

And the shimmering blade

Slaughtered your sides?

A Jew hated by Jews,

A Jew betrayed by Jews.

Did you foresee

On the cross

How the world would shake

In your aftermath?

Your Father sacrificed you

For the salvation of humanity

But ever since

That salvation

Has waged wars

In his name.

He first split the Earth

From the Heavens

And then he let man

Split the Earth in two.

Did you die in vain

Or did you die to show that the innocent must suffer?

But what is lost most through suffering

Is innocence.

Eye lids stitched open

So no pain goes unseen,

Voices raised

So we hear each and every scream.

Today

The crosses around our necks

Are adorned with jewels and pearls,

That day-

On the cross,

As you rose from humanity,

Did you foresee

The war of the worlds?

photo-19