Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. Her work has appeared in many publications including Hennessy New Irish Writing in The Irish Times. She was nominated for the Hennessy Literary Award for emerging poetry and selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions in 2019. Her poetry chapbook, “The Woman With An Owl Tattoo” was published in May 2019 by Fly On The Wall Poetry Press. Her debut short story collection, “Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife” was published by Blue Nib in September 2019. To find out more about Anne and to order her books go to her website: annewalshdonnelly.com
Days Like These*
I kneel beside my bed, in my pink-striped nightie
look out the window at the sky and say, Hi.
God sits on a gold throne on the biggest cloud,
scratching his white beard, smiling
like my brother’s Action Man doll.
My Mam told me today her Mam died
when she was my age.
I wonder if she’s with God.
I blow my mousey-brown fringe out of my eyes
and promise Him, I’ll do anything as long
as he doesn’t take my Mam.
I’ll go to Mass every day,
say my prayers every night.
I’ll always love Him the most,
then Mam, Dad and brothers
and everyone else in the whole universe
and I promise I’ll never put myself first.
I slam shut my New Jerusalem Bible.
Where the hell has He gone?
One of His priests announced today in scripture
class that there never was a stable or donkeys
or angels in the sky or shepherds or wise men.
If that’s a myth, what is the truth?
I graduate with an honours degree,
my head – full of the knowledge of God.
My heart empty.
I leave Ireland to find what I’m looking for,
even though I don’t know what that is.
I trek through ice and snow in the Canadian Rockies,
stand on the edge of Grand Canyon, stare into the abyss,
climb red rock at Uluru.
I’m in awe of these natural works of beauty but feel no sense of my God.
I spend a week in Ubud and grow jealous
of the Balinese people’s devotion to their God.
Every morning I open the door of my room
and on the step, a small palm leaf full of white,
red, yellow and blue petals, notes of floral
and incense touch my nose.
‘Canang sari’, says the woman of the house,
‘to offer thanks to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.
Everywhere I walk I see Canang sari
outside shops, restaurants, beside fishing boats on the beach.
I don’t know or understand the Balinese Hindu Gods
but they reside in old men’s faces, laughing monkeys,
and temple echoes. The Balinese eat, sleep, work,
and dance with their Gods. I leave the island,
grieving for the loss of my faith and a yearning to find my God again.
I promise I will love and honour this man for the rest of my life.
I experience the miracle of creation when I give birth
and allow my children to be baptised,
welcome them into God’s family,
help them draw pictures of the Holy Man in the sky
bring them to Mass, every Sunday.
I stop when I break my vows and leave my marriage.
For the first time in my life, I have put myself first
and flagellate myself daily for doing so.
I fall in love with a woman,
consummate the relationship
and am now considered to be ‘intrinsically disordered.’
I ex-communicate myself. Even if I could find my God,
I am not worthy for Him to enter under my roof.
Black Dog Days
I stand on the edge of a November river,
stare into its bog-brown waters,
have given up praying to an absent God,
before I go to sleep, pleading
with him not to let me wake the next morning.
In the shadow of a lone oak tree, one last time I cry,
‘God, please put an end to my pain?’
I wish I could pierce my body and bleed out the depression,
eating my insides, cramping my stomach, smothering my will to live.
The wind howls, crows caw, a bull roars in a distant field.
Even now as I stand on the edge of my death,
God stays silent. Instead the words my daughter said, yesterday,
come to my mind,
‘Mam, my life would be screwed if you died.’
I drag my hands through my closely cropped red hair.
Love casts a net around my body.
I can’t even kill myself, I think,
struggling to release myself from the net’s scratchy rope.
The wind cuts tears from my eyes. God still stays silent.
I visit my therapist. On her table lie three angel cards,
Divine Timing, Answered Prayer, Divine Guidance
‘I drew them for you,’ she says.
I wonder if the hand of God is touching me
through others and hope He is.
Days Like These
A childhood prayer, I used to chant at Benediction,
pops into my head as I drive to work,
O Sacrament most holy
O Sacrament Divine
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment and thine.
It pops into my head, when I drive home from work,
cook dinner, kiss my children goodnight, brush my teeth,
hop into bed and close my eyes. This prayer surfaces
again and again, as inexplicable
as a raisin rising from the bottom of an under-baked cake.
I dream of entering a cellar, illuminated by a single candle,
a veiled being sits on stool, I whisper,
‘You’ve come back to me?’
‘I never left.’
Who are you? Mother? Father?
What pronoun do I use? He/She/They?
What do I call you? Universe, Source, Divine?
I separate letters, shuffle them around the scrabble board
of my being, try to find what fits,
throw them into the air, watch them land.
I can find no word to describe what I’ve found – within me.
The glacier of disbelief that encases my heart begins to melt.
I sit in silence, my muscles relax
and I feel a hand, not of this earth on my shoulder.
I close my eyes, press the pause button
on unanswered questions, rest in the mystery.
In the space between the end of one breath
and the beginning of another I feel a quiver
run through me, that could possibly be – divinity.
I still can’t say for certain if I’ve found
what I’ve yearned.
But maybe, just maybe, God is,
In Days like these.
* James W Fowler, the American theologian, lists the stages in the development of one’s faith, as follow; Undiffentiated Faith of a baby, Intuitive-Projective Faith in early childhood, Mythic-Literal Faith of late childhood, Synthetic-Conventional Faith of adolescence, Individual-Reflective Faith of early adulthood, Conjunctive Faith of mid adulthood and Universalizing Faith of late adulthood.