Sitting by gas fires having gas craic where once
there were open fires, tended fires, where once
the ceilings rose higher and the walls seemed
wider as if now weighed down with habits
and history, tales burn bright like turf
taking flight, blazing through time, a string
of stories flickering fine in the evening’s amber
light of memory, moments made and measured
in simpler ways, in simpler days, in a sleepy town,
a country town were family folded in between fields
to farm and food to find, stories starting with;
‘Mammy warned us, if Mammy found out, Mammy
would kill us, Mammy, give him a clout!’ Reach out,
listener; catch the smoke about to smother the light
from what happened long ago on streets and faces
that time has now outgrown. See them then,
younger and lighter and giddy on laughter
(no laughter at that table, said Nana) your uncle
grabbed a cake once when they weren’t looking,
when they were no taller than an oven, shared it
with brother and off ran, the boys, shaking, see them
shaking the streets with childhood (before they knew
it would outrun them) ‘Don’t look back, don’t tell
the mammy, let’s savour the flavour and not the smack!’

See the girls now women, now ladies (so they say)
hiding posh frocks in thorny bushes, changing down
lanes out of sight from mothers and then in shorter skirts
they stick thumbs out to crowded cars who’ll ferry
fairer girls to band-hall dances, the brothers hiding
in ditches till cars stop for pretty legs but find petty boys
wedging security between boys with cars and the girls
they’d stopped for. Country cottages filling up fast,
priests teaching parishioners never to abstain,
never to complain, though never explained how
to turn water into wine to stop the baby’s whines
and every young mother forgets what it was
not to be pregnant, not to be planning, not to be pushing,
pushing the older kids into corner beds, kitchen beds,
and beds under beds. See them in this house, in a time
before this house was a modern home, when water
was outside and the buckets carried inside to the bedside
at night time for midnight toilet time. Check the bucket
before your business begins, brother’s missing
his socks again and the other one laughing
beneath the blanket. Look again, look back
to the past now parting, now pealing from walls
like wallpaper that clung on too long to linger longer
(don’t pull; it will come to you) they’re climbing
through windows cause the open door has found
its closure after curfew. See him, silly boy,
comical brother, untypical twin, he’s got the window
down and the foot almost in, another step
and he breaks the bed his brother’s asleep in! Hear them
laughing; the bed is broken and Brian thinks he’s dying
but his brother’s already snoring. See them burning
through the flames of time, twisting back, sneaking
Daddy out the front door after dinner for drinks
in the town while Mammy is busy with the bacon
and the bread. See them through the clothes
in the bushes and the beds almost breaking
and the bucket overflowing and the cakes, off running
through streets still standing, still shining a light
on the laughter of children that once rang out
that once, once, once, upon a time…

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on SoundCloud:




  1. Such phenomenal imagery! Nicely done. I wanted to ask you something, Dami: how do you post blogs that arrive to your followers in email w a “to read more…” line at the end of it instead of the email including the entire post? Did you actively create the post to offer only a tease in the email forcing your followers to click to go to your actual blog page? Or is it by chance this happens?

    • Thanks Paula! Actually I had no idea! I thought people were emailed the whole thing. That’s annoying! I will look at my settings but I didn’t select anything in particular when I set it all up! I will get back to you on that one! Enjoy that weekend

  2. “[…] and the walls seemed wider
    as if now weighed down
    with habits and history […]”

    How aptly stated. Tradition is a beautiful thing if chosen by free will and not imposed on us like ties in a prison.
    Personally I prefer a craic in front of an “open, tended fire” – and what a beautiful analogy you chose, here!
    Much love,

    • I think my family have the world craic as their family motto! They are miraculous and hilarious all at once! When they get together the stories flow and the tears of laughter stream! They know how to enjoy life and it’s infectious! I do feel fortunate indeed!!

      • This sounds like happy times!
        (And very Irish in the best sense, I might add…)
        What a great Motto. Someone should create a coat of arms for this!

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