Remembering Paris of my past with this old poem as I head out once again on the 14 July to the Champ du Mars, now back, at 40, in the city that captured me at 22…
Years go by
And I’m still here-
Years flying by-
Feeling like minutes in my mind;
A decade lost in the passing,
Like I’ve fallen forward through a gap in time.
Years in between
And yet that first morning-
Still so fresh,
Waking up into a home I’d gate crashed-
The Irish abroad;
Jeannie, with the flaming red hair
And welcoming hug,
A son in the shadows of another country
And a daughter to fall in love with were I straight.
Unable to forget
Those heated floors boards,
The note of good morning
In the kitchen,
The crispy toast from a packet,
The tiled green bathroom,
Separate toilet
And back to the bathroom to wash hands.
The plant filled balcony,
Those frosted glass doors
Which echoed through the apartment as you opened them-
So mundane and ordinary
And yet so much more
A part of me now
Than those trivial things
Ever where then-
Long before they became
A memory to cling to,
To cherish.
I hold on to so much more now
Than I ever thought possible
Or considered important-
The feel, the taste, the smell,
Like those disgruntled old madames
Who threw water from their balconies every morning-
Clocked in sombre shades of black
And scowling at passers-by like me
For the demise of their youth and their looks.
I can recall-
As if it were yesterday-
Those precious summer mornings
That soon followed me-
The air filling
With the fragrance of freshly baked croissants
As boulangeries opened their bell-ringing doors
To delighted strains of bonjour and ca’va.
Years, reaped upon years
But I still smell it as fresh now
As the day was new.
I can hear those familiar sounds
Of kids-
Singing out in ignorant celebrations
Of their youth
But always hidden from view
Behind high walls of stone.
Paris- the city for artists,
And the amourouse,
Where children are heard
But rarely seen.
No tantrums in stores,
No snotty noses in bistros-
No changings of nappies in sight.
Our Lady of magic was
Fully grown,
Fully developed-
No question of who She was
Or where She was going.
This City was born
Dressed in Chanel attire
With precious pearls to match-
Born a proud,
Free speaking,
Free thinking,
Confident adult,
Without question.
Her raison d’etre-
Herself entirely.
And there I stood
In the middle of it all
Trying to find my own trend
And set a route
Amid multitude of pathways
I longed to explore,
Get lost in,
Fall in love in
And find adventure in.
Time slips away
But it somehow leaves a part of me
Still there- somewhere,
Wandering through covered passageways
Packed with marionette theaters
And tiny trinket stores
Watched over by age old glass ceilings,
Discovering underground chambers
Of sewers and tombs-
Lost generations of the past,
Slipping unnoticed through graveyards
Of forgotten faces
Ad heralded names
Decorated with weeping women,
Stones eyes Madonnas
And cast iron wings-
Never to fly,
Remembering those I’d never known
And wondering who’d remember me.
Sitting by Seurat to make connections in his colours
And wondering what Mr. Wilde would make of us now.
Years gone by
And I still go back there-
Left side,
Art style,
Boho chic-
Where Oscar last laughed
And Sartre sighed
And I remember who I was,
Laugh at who I’ve become
And wonder why I’ve fled so far
From the city that never changes
Whilst I never stop.
Saturday afternoons,
After lazy lie-in’s
Rising through the cobbled hills
Of once moulin covered Montmartre
With Abi’s and Vincent’s
And Yasmine’s and Shaun’s,
Where artists ghosts-
By the green fairies potent mix
And the ruffling of high kicking
Can-can skirts-
Would swept though air
That you had only to touch
To feel a part of,
While tourists flocked
To pick up as many copies
And replicas as they could carry
Without so much as breathing in
All that surrounded them
For free.
I was a free man in Paris too,
My dear Joni,
And have wandered down
That Champs Elysees
In search of those I once knew
And cared for
And loved
And lost.
Years outrun years
But I can still close my eyes
And feel the sun on my skin
As we filled Victor’s fine square
With resounding laughter
That soared around the fountains
And columns
And palaces
Fit for queens.
14th of July ’98-
Champ du mars,
Three tenors,
Mary and me
And a thousand others-
We were the luckiest in the world.

marydami 002
I can see myself at 23-
Cast bright in the lamp lights
That I sailed past
On the back of a motorbike-
Tearing through world of Hemingway
On the slumbering market street
Of Rue Mouffetard
Before the bank side approached
And Notre Dame lay reflected
In the sleeping waters.
My arms wrapped tight
Around my leather clad driver
With Spanish blood and gallic looks-
Willing to show me it all.
The years may continue
To build on years,
Time will continue
To tick-tock away,
But there are lifetimes
In moments
Which years can do nothing
To suppress
Or erase
If the heart wills
Not to forget.


All Words and, almost all, photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



4 thoughts on “PARIS PAST; YEARS GO BY

    1. deuxiemepeau

      I’m fine Paula, thank you, I was at the Tour Eiffel with thousands watching a concert and fireworks. An incredible, dreamlike night only to face the reality when I got home and turned on the TV. We are running out of words to explain the horrors of the current days!

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