Nana, Always and Forever

The years roll by
In a hazy blur of time passing
At accelerating speeds-
Another year older
And each subsequent year flies by
Faster than the one before,
Filled with new faces,
New phases,
New beginnings,
And newer goodbyes,
Anniversaries draw near
And that feeling arrives-
That sense of something missing-
But just gone of late,
Just out of sight,
Just around the corner-
A blink from view
Because nothing-
Not even time-
Can fade your face
From the forefront of daily thoughts.

Me, the child grown man
Under your helping hand
And gentle guidance,
Me, the child of your child,
You- Nana- always and forever,
With your splash of Tweed on Sundays
And best brown bread
Baked fresh for breakfast-
The sweet mother of my mother,
How much sweeter is memory
Now that you are a member of it-
Central to it,
Remembered ever onwards-
Not just now,
As that day approaches again-
The one that once darkened our door
In the past,
Not just because Spring
Taps itself on my window
And asks for me to open it and let the air flow in,
Is that you on the gentle breeze
That wraps itself around me
On early morning walks
And journeys home
During sunsets,
Sunsets you watched so often
From your stool,
In the kitchen,
By the window,
Station road,
North of the city,
Counting the busses,
Watching for the kids on the trains
And blessing everyone
With your goodness
And a drop of holy water
If they were lucky enough
To cross through your door.

Are you still there, somewhere, somehow,
Watching the lane
And its comings and goings,
Listening to the football in the field next door-
The shouts and roars and cheers for the save,
Do you still keep up
With who’s moved out,
Who’s moved in,
And who’s passed on-
Are they with you now,
Swapping stories,
Making tea
And laughing at the rest of us
Still battling and balling,
Crying and falling?

What we placed in the ground
Was merely your earthly remains,
Your soul and spirit
Are freer now
Than ever before-
Sometimes I feel you so close
And smile at the comfort that it brings.

Your story is without ending
We carry you, a little treasured piece, within us all
You walk this road, still, with us
Always and forever…



Attaining the Stars

Parted from the inhuman heights of the heavens,

We dwell deep, deep down

In what we’ve shaped

Into the final spoils

Of Planet Earth,

Lost amid our own

All-consuming desire

To rise up and stand out.

We are funny creatures

Of spiraling arms

And spindly legs,

Equally drawn and repelled

By each other’s tastes and tones,

Gifted with two eyes

To view the world around us

And yet remain often oblivious

To all and everything

Other than ourselves,

Though ever curious

To understand each other,

Oft’ times care for each other,

And, more often, control each other

As we wander about on two feet

And ten tiny nubbins named toes

With spine up stretched

As if trying to reach for the stars

Though all the time busy

Trying to make stars of ourselves-

Forever wanting to shine

As we bask in the warmth of the sun

And be remembered

As we fall drowsy under the spell

Of the moon.


Fickle fellows we are

Who fall frequently fool

To fortune,

Forever following the flock,

Fast footed on the flow

Of fashion and idols of falsity,

Fiercely arrogant

And fearlessly fumbling forward

Through consumer moments,

Appetizing advertising and diets of the day-

Were we not once modeled

Upon a glorious god-

An unparalleled picture of perfection

That somehow slipped, over time, to rejection.


Ambitious creatures are we-

Carnivorously craving more from the pot

And constantly climbing this ladder,

That ladder- every ladder.

No longer willing to settle

For only land and sea,

We molded man-made wings of metal

And matched the birds in flight

Low over land and water, at first,

And then coveting the clouds

And soaring past those stars

We tried so hard as kids

To reach out and touch.


Yet here we are, today,

Ascending higher than ever,

Reaching for those inhuman heights,

Us, with our spiraling arms

And spindly legs,

Eyes to understand

And ears to comprehend,

Capable of so much glory

With our courage and convictions

And opposable thumbs-

We had the hope

To hold the whole universe

In our hungry hands

With those fumbling fingers

And gnarly nails.


We will continue

To rise onwards and upwards

Charting skies lanes and skyways,

Naming those long, burnt-out,

Fading stars

After ourselves-

As if deserving-

But, while we wage war

On our own individuality-

On those very tastes and tones

That both attract and distract us,

Then the heavens will remain,

Always and forever,

The untapped attainment of human desire.



Ireland- The Emerald and I

And again I found myself,

Of a morning- that morning,

On a winding road, once more,

Meandering like a stream,

Before it opened up to unveil

A vast expanse of stillness

Where brook and lake entwined,

Rugged roads wandered into wilder woods

And the light- that sat

Upon mossy mountain-

Reflected the break of another

Boorishly boisterous day

In a landscape where Yeats-

Having left the Mauds of his world

To fight the battle without him-

Had climbed nightly

The Thoor Ballylee

To find rest and I reveled

In what it meant to be connected

To these often harsh,

Sometimes barren

But seldom anything less

Than breathtaking lands.


Immense clouds hanging on the horizon,

Fertile lands out front

Awash with the 40 shades

And a silence amid so much

Awe-inspiring nature

That the Emerald in her name

Seemed so justified.


And yet, as if forever ingrained and known

But for a moment forgotten,

From somewhere deep inside

Resurfaced the notion

That it was not these lands

That I missed but

The memory of laughter

That blew above these lands

On the breeze that crossed

Fields of verdant greens,

That skirted over grass

Waiting to be grazed on

And found rest in trees

That longed for lovers to kiss beneath.


And then, as normal as the nodding of the cap

To the passing stranger along the roadside,

I was taken back to those lucidly liquid days

Shining from my youth

When the patriotic spirit

Of a nation-

So small but spirited,

More laughed with

Than laughed at-

Doused itself in shamrocks

And drowned itself merrily

In spirits of an altogether other nature,

A time when neighbors knew each other like family

And a new face in town was merely a friend we did not yet know…


And there I stood- home again,

Spun on that same laughing breeze

Into the past and I saw before me

The Me of today reflected

In my childhood form of yesterday

With teddy in one hand and Tayto’s in the other

Smiling amid laughter I had heard

But was far too young to understand

In a land that I’ve fled so far from-

Swept up and away

On other breezes-

And yet, however high I fly

Or however  much I roam

I never seem to feel too far

From that Fair Green Isle called home.


The Beauty Within

Put your hand

In mine,

To pull me

Not apart,

But to please me,

Pleasure me and perfect me

Into a useful unity-

A balanced blend

Of better beings

Than before-

Less bestial, base

And bitter

Than the twisted tribes

Who’ve crossed my path

In darker days of late

With their loins

Full of lust and longing…


Let this smile

Sink through skin,

Seep under substance

And build in us

The ability

To laugh

Through the long hours

And bask in the benefits

Of the beauty

We’ve made within…


India- Along the Road


I’ve crossed continents,

Curtailed time,

Been somehow seduced

By sleep while squeezed

Into my single sized seat

And swept, in one day,

From winters winds

To summers sun as seen

Scorching over sabulous

Sands, ignorant to the floods

And rains and storms

That have become my norm.


I am a homeless traveler,

Displaced from those norms,

The wide eyed wanderer-

Aghast at what this

Delightfully distracting,

Dust dosed, dreamlike country

Clings to as commonplace,

Conventional customs.


My eyes, fearful to blink

And miss out, flurry about

Their sockets trying to take in,

Understand or just be a witness

To this unaccustomed view

While my fingers fumble

Over the lens of my camera

Already failing to capture

Each memory of life

As it passes me by

At breathtaking speeds

That cannot even compare

To the cacophony of captivating

Charismatic charms I’ve been

Suddenly submerged in,

Surrounded by

But am nothing more

Than passing through.


I am being driven

Through your lands of millions

Where sarees, in more complex colors

Than stars in the constellations,

Careen through my side-windowed vista

From the backs of motorbikes,

Twisting and turning through

Chaotic carriageways

Crammed with cars of every

Size, sign and signature,

All Honking through the

Hustle and bustle of the crowds

Who live their lives along the roadside

And ignore the rules

We westerners have grown

So weak and wearisome under.


Curious eyes watch me

From lofty positions

On backs of open trucks-

Some eyes smile, some

Frown, some wonder,

Naturally, on the reason

That lies behind my gaze.

The air; awash with sights

And sound unfamiliar to me,

The landscape; flecked with tones

My eyes have never imagined,

On the streets, idolized cows

Wander freely through the masses,

Nothing to worry about,

Nothing to remark over,

Just a godly cow

In search of water to drink

And land to graze upon.


We are stuck in traffic and a man,

Looking blind to all light,

Weaves his way through the carnival

Of carriages and cars

With three sheep tight by his side

As if they’d always been with him,

As if they were his children, his family

And I wonder who is leading who-

The man, the sheep, this car or me.


Amid all of this life carried out

In cars, on corners, at crossroads,

Along grassy knolls and sandy banks,

Lacking in obvious direction,

There is a freedom.

Amid all this weight

Of politics and poverty,

There are smiles a plenty

And it is I, in my branded costume,

Who looks the fool

Traveling through, taking it in,

Thinking I am better off,

Somehow, amid my laws

And rules and beds and baths

And running water

And walled in farms.

I am the foreigner,

Amid what looks like

The fortunate

Whose fortunes are far

More favorable than mine.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly