BOOKENDS; BETTER BOTTLES

 

In the shadows not yet departed
from former students, since departed,
in confined compartments the Polish left to the Irish,
red vinegar wine (as vulgar as the vultures
who drowned in its deluge) caught itself in corners
still not drunk by the blow-ins still bleating
about the burnt beef and sodden soil
as we made smoke chains in our simple chambres
to choke a distance between the homes we’d left
and those hands that hadn’t yet let us go.

We may have been from the same barrel born
but we had desires to be labelled in better bottles.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 This month is about looking back to move on, I started out living, for two months, in the residence of the Irish College, on rue des irlandais in 1997 where I met Mary, still dear friends, and we felt like the only two who wanted to live and breathe and taste Paris while all the other students, studying french history and language, missed the well cooked steaks and wild weather. We were outsiders from the outset.

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BOOKENDS; BOY SO BLUE

 

Sitting in a park in Paris, France as kids
climb trees they’ll soon outgrow and birds busy
their feathers in a dance of freedom we’ll never know.

I fall through thoughts as someone tickles strings
on cords too distant to be discovered and wonder
where you sat; on the orange carpeted concerns
of the girl growing through her song of sorrow?
By the guy with the hat and harmony, probably,
the guy guarding his guitar from the bright light
of the, as yet, starless sky as if he knows already
how celebrity will one day cripple his creativity.

A blackbird bows before me, burrowing burdens
into the road, looking for crumbs since cast off,
for a little refuge, like you did, like we all do,
looking for a little distraction from the circling sun
and shining skins blustering under bland or blander.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France, as if in a trance
from 22 to 42, recalling how I first found favour
with following you; back room, no light, bedsit;
we were masters of the Marais, simple singletons,
senselessly sinking innocence into the marshes,
courting kisses of single sparks and rising over losses
we thought at the time to be insurmountable disasters.

But they were just dances, like these tiny birds
around me now, prances we perform, up and under,
over and through. We are all naked birds flirting
with honesty and invisibility under a sweltering sun,
sometimes recalled, sometimes forgotten before begun.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France, still trying
to understand the message in the melody
underlying and still trying to comprehend
the cords forged in the flesh of the boy so blue.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly. 

This month is about Paris and letting her go. This photo was taken at the garden on front of the Musee Picasso, in Paris where I lived in an apartment right next door at the end of the 1990’s with a young Irish girl who introduced me to the music of Joni Mitchell. On my return to life in Paris in my 40’s, I wrote a series of poems, while sitting in parks during the summer, based on the albums of Joni and this was a nod to the album Blue. Like tattoos and all things that stick.

This was the original self portrait I used when I first posted this poem as Joni painted or photographed all her album art…

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BOOKENDS; EVEN IN A CITY THE CROWS CAN COME TO CLAW

 

On a Monday, a muse filled‬ Monday,
a sky-blue clarity carries me ‬
like the water would never the river
from the sea back to the source. ‬

My footsteps are still steady,
still stepping up on the spiral,
but memory can be mischievous
and, on the turn, I twist
past that door, long since shut,
by the temple with its turret staircase
where saint Therese tittered on the timbers

and I wonder if the sunflowers
I once painted onto its lifeless walls,
before I uncovered Vincent’s darker visions,
are still visible beneath all the time
that has grown over it since I put them there

at 22?
This, I think of, here today,

at 44

while growing and ageing and twisting
and turning from the call of those crows
that try so hard to claw at creativity. ‬

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly.

This month is about looking back in order to move on. An Irish girl named Therese (who introduced me to the music and magic of Joni Mitchell via her Casio keyboard) and I first lived in a little apartment at 98 rue Vieille du Temple, in Paris, in 1998 where I painted sunflowers on walls that never saw any sunlight. It was my first home in Paris and we had no idea at the time that crows were anything more than something to contrast the cotton candy clouds.

BOOKENDS; AMATEUR STATUS

 

November rains in a park, trying to be an artist,
attempting to capture it all in quiet corners,
beyond earshot from anything daring,
sheltered in shadow instead of off in adventure,

thinking I’d found myself but it was safe, fake lies;
a pacifying of the ego, trying to paint a Pissarro
in a Paris park with colourless pencils, not suffering
for art but suffocating in the subject that surrounded me,

your multi-layered character was a daunting place to start
adding colour to this blank canvas, I was but amateur
attempting astounding, dabbling in shadow and shade;
more lifeless than lit, more stilled life than filled with life.

One million options beneath my feet waiting to be walked
and I picked the solitary seat, in the shade of a Saturday,
in a park, in Paris, a spot speckled with strokes of life
but my own form had yet to be found within the frame.

I was as lifeless as the simple scene I had sketched
but I hung you on my wall nonetheless, as a reminder
perhaps; fast movement was needed least winter winds
would wipe this foreigner as forgotten before begun.

   

Words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly. This is a month of looking back at my life with Paris in order to start moving on. I wrote this poem at 23. I was 22 when I first sat in le jardin du Luxembourg and tried to painted a canvas with colourless pencils.

SHORT STORIES OF FEAR; WATCHING YOU WATCHING ME

 

 The Dead one

I woke to a mouth already swallowing the claustrophobic earth that mounded itself over my naked torso like crumble over stewed apples waiting to be crisped but I couldn’t feel the warmth of an oven, even buried, as I was, so close to the sparks of hell but, instead of digging down to join the demons dancing in the darkness, I ate my way up and out, through the crunch of earth now meeting the acid of my stomach, past the worms that wanted to wind their wills within this festering flesh still clinging to the bones of a body the day had pushed deep down into the darkness, although nothing works alone; the night has a moon while the day bears that ball of fire which burns through all the possibilities the light can shine upon and so, too, my demise did not happen alone but had his cowardly character carved all over its bloody finality. Oh, how we come and covet and then cum and croak. My name was Benjamin Grant when air was my everything and I wanted to taste all the world had to offer, when I thought I had found it all in him and his horny little hunger I mistook for happiness. Well, now I have no more need for a name and taste only decay, destruction, and a desire only death knows how to discern. And that desire will see his downfall.

 

The Other One, Still Alive

He woke up under a twisted blanket of sharp shadows, startled by a staggered pull of starved lungs begging for air and felt, instantly, the restriction of cold hands upon him, as if trying to close the circumference of his neck, all the while knowing the owner of those hands was nowhere near, all the while knowing what had become of him, all the time reminding himself that that man no longer sought out any air to fill his lifeless lungs in a body that would be nothing more than rotting flesh for fowl figures to feast upon, deep below the daylight, far from sight. He sat there, sweating in the middle of the bed with a fat man snoring beside him and, he imagined with a grim, his Tesla igniting gossip in the gobs of the next door neighbours, a bed once their bed, now his bed, recalling how he had dug, with his own hands, this former lover’s final resting place, a place he hoped never offered any rest, deep in the forest where only savage swine sought shelter, where only callous crows came to caw. He recalled the spot where he covered the cadaver, the one he once so openly cavorted upon, in the coarse, comfortless earth while he cried with a jolt of joy on front of the sudden stillness, the smashing silence that seemed even louder than the muffled screams his boyfriend had made the moment he had pulled the plastic bag down over his head from behind while he had been waiting for him, as usual, just as he had done every morning, for the previous 7 years, by the breakfast counter, in the kitchen. But that morning he suffocated from lack of air and a gulp of coffee he never managed to fully taste.

 

The Dead one

You came into the bathroom, once our bathroom, once our choice of towels and tiles, once the place where I would take you in the shower, against the glass, my fingers in your mouth, my breath on the back of your neck and your body bending into mine. You came in and stood by the toilet, pissing, without lifting the seat, without lifting up the fucking seat. You were still half asleep, totally naked but half asleep. You wore that nakedness often on front of me as if it was something I could never again fit into. You were always standing, posing, looking for the right light to fall upon your flesh. I had thought you meant to tease but now I realise how you saw it more as a torture. You didn’t notice as I moved from behind the door, didn’t hear me step into position behind you, you didn’t even hear me as I sniffed your scent one last time. But there was nothing. I was dead, I didn’t breathe, didn’t sleep, didn’t fuck, didn’t piss, and I couldn’t even smell. You had taken all that from me, a month ago, on an ordinary morning that had barely found its light. You’d grown tired and wanted new attention, someone new to look at with admiration so you could look back and swoon at your own reflection in their eyes. Maybe that was why I chose to break one of the mirrors in the downstairs hallway, earlier, before I’d crept up the stairs and took my position. And then, there I was, standing behind you, not fucking you, not smelling you, no longer a lover of you, raising my right arm, bringing it up and out and around until the shard of glass I was holding caught my reflection just before it found the softness of your socket. Did you have a moment to catch the look in my eyes, watching you, in the glass, before it pierced its way through your eye?

 

To be continued…

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

THE CHILD INSIDE THE MAN

 

Oh child, sweet child, sleeping so
beneath these big shoes and ties
knotted to a life of change and choice,
but we had to run, had to keep going,
didn’t we have grow up so quickly;
stand up, show up, give up, pay up.
Oh child, sleeping child, so sweet
beneath this bitter battle we must wade
through, the waves come not solely
on the current, not timely like the tides
but in the solitude, in the silence
we thought to be a comfort, I feel you
twist through the dreams you still dream,
that I have lost hold of, that I have let
slip from a grasp now older, less bolder.
But you, dear child, sweetly sleeping
as I make movements meant to be manly,
meaning to be mature, how I hear
your voice, amid the louder, broader,
vulgar tones beyond the preying
playgrounds of concrete corporations
and communal conformity, yours
so soft and gentle amid the riots
and the roars, yours so soothing
amid all that is smothering. I see you
too sometimes, in the mirror, briefly,
a spark of what was once a projection, now
but a reflection; wide eyed
and hearty of hope, I see you, laughing
at my troubles, calling me to come play,
to see the adventure in the danger,
to see the impermanence of these little
interruptions that come a calling.
Oh child, sweet child who painted
pictures to make the grey days
more grand, who penned poems
to let the pain find its place to perish
on the page instead of in the person.
Oh child, sleeping child of my youth,
how much I still have to learn from you.

   

All words by Damien B Donnelly. School photo aged possibly 5.

From the series A Month With Yeats

BOY SO BLUE

 

Sitting in a park in Paris, France as kids climb
trees they’ll soon outgrow and birds busy
their feathers in a dance of freedom we’ll never know.
I fall through your thoughts as someone tickles
strings on cords too distant to be discovered
and wonder where you sat; on the orange carpet
caressed by concerns of a girl growing
through her own song of sorrow? Next to the guy
with the hat and harmony, no doubt, who guards
his guitar from the bright light, in the as yet
starless sky, as if he knows how celebrity
will one day cripple his creativity. A blackbird
bows before me, burrowing his burdens
into the road, looking for crumbs cast off,
for a little refuge, like you did, like we all do,
a little distraction from the circling sun
and shining skins blustering under bland and blander.
Sitting in a park in Paris, France, as if in a trance
from 22 to 42, when I first found favour
with following you; back room, no light, bedsit;
we were masters of the Marais, simple singletons,
senselessly sinking innocence into the marshes,
courting kisses for a single spark and rising
over all those losses we thought at the time
to be utterly insurmountable disasters.
But they were just dances, like these tiny birds
around me now, prances we perform, up and under,
over and through. We are all naked birds flirting
with honesty and invisibility under the sweltering sun,
sometimes remembered, sometimes forgotten
before begun. Sitting in a park in Paris, France,
still trying to understand the message in the melody
underlying and still trying to comprehend
the cords forged in the flesh of the boy so blue.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

This is a repost from my Joni Mitchell Series

FANTASTIC FLUTTERINGS, COLOUR ON CURT CORNERS

 

On dull days
when the sun
absconds from sky,
when grey grinds
gloom into gutters
and mothers utter
‘stay inside’,
children’s minds
flutter to unfold
like umbrellas opening;
colours cascading
over concrete clutter
like candy to calm
a calamity.

In the midst
of the mundane
and the murky,
inspiration catches
on the canvas of creation
like wings willing
to cut through clouds
and gain the grace
of the sun.

Children’s minds,
so magnificent,
hold matter so magical
that ordinary moments
can become such
extraordinary miracles.

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

 

TRUTH OR DARE, for Poetry Day Ireland

 

It’s Poetry Day Ireland so I am supporting from abroad. This year’s theme is Truth or Dare and this final new poem recalls older days when this Irishman was still a growing boy on the streets of Paris…

 

Truth or Dare

At 22 we locked the bar at 2am
and turned empty bottles around
tittering tables, wishes weaving
into comrades’ ears of who to pick
and who to kiss; the ex-pats in Paris,
running an Irish bar like it was
their open bar, even when it was closed,
eager to acquire a taste for foreign desires,
no one ever wanted to know the truth,
we were too young to be serious
and too stupid to know that it mattered,
that taste didn’t lie on the tongue,
though it later laid lies on our lips. At 22
we closed the bar and dared each other
to dive into anything other than the truth.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly, except for the one below as that’s me pulling my last pint in the Irish bar in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.

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GOLDEN HAZE

 
Slow comes the morning,
eyes still dazzled by the delicate stars
now off trailing dust across the universe
as if plotting tracks to tempt us
further than the stubborn stance
of our single spotlights
and I wonder how far you got
as I sit here, in the silence
of this slowly waking morning light
casting shadows on the single form
in this too big room with no door
large enough to climb through.
We considered setting sails
on cotton clouds once, long ago,
in a corner of this concrete jungle,
a single streetlamp casting courage
onto our concerns of cutting free
like a jazz break from the base,
of burning our own trails of glorious starlight
across the deafening daylight.
I am breath that still can bleed now,
here now, far from that corner we once
we painted dreams on, trying to force
the foot to slow the speed of this time burning
while you; already taken to the dust,
now a speckled starlight
cutting your own groove
into an orbit I cannot observe
while tossing remembrances
down from the night sky
that fall and flitter
above the dizzying distraction
of this golden haze of mourning light,
still coming on slow.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

17th poem for National Poetry Writing Month