Last weekend my mother and her two sisters, the identical triplets of Lusk, Co Dublin, the women who shaped my life, came to visit me in Paris for my mums birthday. Mum has been celebrating her birthday abroad with me since I first moved to Paris in 1997, and then to London and then to Amsterdam and now back to Paris again. Some things, it seems, never change. The below poem I wrote 18 years ago after mums first visit…
Mum and I on my street 22 July 2016
Birthday celebrations at La Rotunde, Montparnasse, Paris
Aspirational house hunting by Parc Montsouris
Blondes in the Parc
La Mere et Moi
I am sure it was Spring but in the scattered photos
by my slippered feet the weather recalls it winter.
Your first foray into the new world I had run to,
forsaking the familiar for the unknown, discarding
childish ways for other adult desires.
Your glistening eyes lit up as I showed you the treasures
I had found, enlightened eyes that hid so well the tears
reeked down since my departure. Eyes that frowned
upon my green sofa bed resting but a foot from the floor,
that laughed at the view from my first window;
all but another window perched but a hands throw away
and loving eyes that saw through mine and smiled;
relieved, relaxed and enthralled.
And quickly you began to revel amid it all; my new transitory
family who took you to their hearts, tempted you with cocktails,
boat rides and frolics within a Spanish tavern in the Frenchest
of all cities where you slowly found my raison d’être
and the joie that had become part of ma vie became,
as always, a part of yours. My adventure you now a witness to,
a part of and integral to. You had been no more deserted
by me than I by you and so geography became now
no more than a different view and no longer
a means of separation.
You floated through the city, your feet feeling nothing
but comfort even as I dragged you up the steps
of Montmartre, hiding from you the lift behind the trees.
With the wind freezing our faces and tears streaming
from our eyes, we huddled together in queues
filled with adolescent vacationers and mounted fair Tour Eiffel.
Through the nights falling darkness the city lit up below us
and I traced for you the paths I had taken.
You left amid only tears of joy, my life no longer to you
an empty canvas a world away, but a painting
being filled up and coloured in, in tri-color, technicolor,
Damien colour. We painted away the days and nights
ourselves, Mother and son, as inseparable as Mona
from Lisa or the Moulin from the Rouge.
It may have looked like winter but we knew that behind
the wind lay a spring in bloom for both of us. We had earned
our time in the sun and we would wear its rays like medals of honour.
From the vault, Paris 1998.
All Words and Photographs (except the ones I’m in) by Damien B. Donnelly