SALUTATIONS FROM THE SHADOWS OF SLEEP

 

In the shadows of the night
He threads his way, carefully,
Like a needle running silk,
Through distant dreams
He yearned for in younger days,
Carefree then, the dainty drifter,
The doe-eyed dandy with a want
To witness the world, to flitter
And flap like a starling in first flight,
To seek sustenance in substance,
To search himself far from the familiar,
Far from familial ovations
Too treasured to be trusted and trophied,

I have no idea how long I’ll stay,
He told a perfect stranger
In a yellow raincoat and ruined
Leather shoes, in a bar,
On a Tuesday, in November
As the rain ran down the window.

In the shadows of the night
He mildly meanders his way
Through the myriad of memories
Of what once was, recollections
Recounted, fleeting follies, temporary
Footholds in rugged rocks
And misconstrued meanings
He fortuned to be forever
In the hands that held him,
In the hearts that hungered him,
Hampered him, hung him,
Tempted and twisted him,
Like gum turned by teeth,
Conformed him into complacency,
Seduced him with a security
That never existed, packaged him,
Boxed him in, labeled him
Incorrectly, return to sender,
Destination unknown,

He opened his eyes on their third night
Together to find him watching him sleep,
How do you know when love begins,
The man beside him asked,
But he had no answer
So he moved in and held him,
Knowing this wasn’t love,
But there was comfort, nonetheless.

In the shadows of the night
He recalls the role plays,
The stages and scenarios,
The sensational sets
That serenaded him
With a roaring crowd,
The ostentatious ovation,
Bowing, with applause,
Into the gaping abyss
Of the void that lies within,
That truth tentatively twinkling
In the fading spotlight
Before each fall,
Before every failure,

You’re a wonderful person, they said,
But it wasn’t what he remembered
He recalled the line ‘but we can’t keep you,’
Realising that bullshit covered
Head to toe in a tailored suit of sugar
Still smells like shit in the end.

In the shadows of the night
He leans in, towards the light,
To the places made precious,
The moments moulded into memory,
To the faces that favoured him,
Fed him, found him, for a while,
Along the line of life, he bows
Down to all the embraces
That bedded him, bettered him,
Made him and mattered to him,
The naked truth of naked bodies
Kneading and knowing, counting
Not the cost, not the length,
But the height of unhindered
Happiness, held and heralded,

In a basement restaurant,
6 of them ate together,
At an old round wooden table,
Told jokes, swapped stories, made plans
And only later, days later, did he discover
That they had all been strangers, all been drifters,
All just seeking shelter from the storm.

In the shadows of the night,
As he slumbers, he slips along
The paths once taken,
The routes that enriched him,
Beneath the palaces
Of huts that became shelters,
Stop gaps, the humble home
He dedicated to the spirits
Of all the souls
Who lead him there,
Hail the voyage,
Of all the voices
That joined him there,
Repeat the chorus,
Of the kind creatures
Who cared for him there,
Savour the sacred,
And the trusted travellers
Who rested for a while
From their journey
And left him there,
Smiling and satisfied,
Sleeping in the presence
Of so many souls
Who still salute him
From the shadows.

 

All words and sketches by Damien B. Donnelly

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