LEARNING TO CLIMB WALLS

 

There can be earthquakes
in little towns,
far from tectonic plates,
on little streets, rarely shaken
where we sat, once,
on the wall of a garden
now obsolete,
the summer burning
through our cool-lessness
as we trembled beneath attractions
we didn’t have the words
to understand
while eyes watched from windows,
trying to translate
thoughts tossed
between their local boy
and a sandy-haired student of exchange.

And I wanted to exchange-
to uncover
all that was growing curious.

We sat on this wall, once,
in the kiss
of youth’s sunlight,
in the stifling days
of undulating adolescence
and the growing tension
beneath every question,
and that temptation-
and I wanted nothing more
than to touch that temptation
despite our twisted tongues
and those eyes
always watching, always wondering
what was unfolding between us-
two boys just beginning
to join the colours that made blue,
for a while, beneath the weight
and the worth
of all the nothingness
that never trembled
for longer than a month in the summer
when our legs
occasionally touched, like tectonic plates,
shifting positions beneath
all that was once solid,
sensations rubbing up against
all that we wanted
and what, I suppose we knew,
at the time, we could never really have.

There can be earthquakes, in little towns.

  

All words and photos by Damien B Donnelly

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

KNUCKLE KNOTTED LIBERTY

 

A navy jumper, twice monthly washed, a blue shirt and striped tie
with a red thread. Grey trousers growing tighter though not getting
any longer. I was 12

in patient leather shoes with points to piece the playground’s pricks,
all sweaty under pit and after-school spit and fearless, only, in the face
of other fools, the types

the teachers all cheered for, for their football field finesses
(everyone wants to fit in) and cursed, later, for lack of flare in their classes
(grade goals were not the same

as game goals). Those were the days of ruby red walls and stained floors
I’d stripped one summer, looking for a more tangible form in the simple wood
buried under a carpet

of complicated patterns- knuckle knotted boards that twisted in place
like my feet, knowing that liberty did not live in things beaten into place.
Those days when education

insisted, with its uniform and a ruler to measure the distance of the hair
from the collar, that similarity was the best way to integrate- 30 not-so-neat
navy jumpers, pulled,

stretched and torn at the cuff for the thumb to slip through, 30 ties tied
in tight knots around necks licked by the sweat of the sport instead
of the inspiration

of individuality. Those days when I turned the cumbersome carpet over
in a red bedroom, trying to carve out a single sliver of liberty, fraternity
and equality

that I mistakenly believed should have been cardinal to the classroom.

 

All words by Damien B. Donnelly. School day photograph

WHO WE ARE

 

I came out;
a silent scream
to summon a voice,

screaming,
a hunger
wanting to be heard.

I came out;
a kept cry, cold to comfort,

aching,
a cry looking for compassion,

I came out
in a time changing,

I came out
from a boy learning,

I came out
to let go of a secret,

I came out
to let the secret let go of me.

We are more than the fears we forgo.

We are more than the tears we trickle through.

It is not over when we tell you what we are

but when we can be seen for who we are.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

FIRST THRUST

 

There
in the crook of hope,
like fluff caught
in the navel,
of youth barely tasted,
(I had barely licked air)
of freedom newly found,
(note: first flights often fail)
of fulfillment
before it failed
(before we faded),
I am in a bed
in Belfast
no longer bloody
(the city not yet I)
no longer blown to bits
(the streets not yet my hope)
and we are better
than I believed,
trusting in our thrusts,
truer than we were
and more lasting,
more intact
than reality
left that first kiss
(already gone once it’s given)
of something bright,
of freedom felt
before it was shattered
on my bed;
bloody
and blown to bits,
I, not the city.

We were never
more than momentary
(a training ground
for grown-up toddlers),
a meeting at Bewelys
(when it was creative
and cozy like cuddles
when it’s cold
and still accommodating
after clubs)
when Dublin
was still my day,
was still within interest
(when its size didn’t matter;
isn’t it all relative?)
a courting over coffee
(footsies in the shadow
of a table that wobbled
on the third floor
near the theatre
and therein the warning;
unstable and all an act)
in the afternoon,
in the aftermath
of my outing;
freshly feathered bird
on the first flight
from the nest
from the tit;
the search
for something new
to suck from,
so full on faith,
so blind to the fall
but eager to climb
over dreams,
over desires,
over you in the end,
(or up from under you)
obstacles to rise to,
to arouse me
(did you arose me
or just your attention
to trembling erection?)
obstacles that came
until they were gone
and other conquests
(obstacles become conquests)
took their place
in my head,
in my bed
after I’d cleaned up
what had been left
broken
by our blast.
A bright wave
in the dark enlightenment
of a Dublin night
by the shore
swept off the ring
that wrapped us
(faith falling from finger)
when your wandering ways
and hands and eyes
(that turned like tides)
washed over
my innocence
(my Disney-like devotion)
and drowned
your deviations
and my dedications
to the blind side.
We’d been better
in Belfast
after the conflicts,
in that bed
that night
before our conflict,
but that was just one act,
one thrust
before dublin
demolished
the trust
that was an illusion
revealed
behind the crook
of the curtain
of our pale play
with too trite twists.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/damien-donnelly-2/first-thrust

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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