The always inspiring Liz at Exploring Colour

introduced me this week to this beautiful drawing by Jean Mackay of Drawn In,

a sketch revolving around the various stages in the basket making process. Liz hinted there could be tales uncovered within the shadow and light of the sketch and, after an initial look this week qnd finding a certain nostalgia mixed in amid the delicate pencil strokes, this is the story that unfolded for me…


Before they break the bread they make the baskets,

hands twisting like roots turning, finding the source

beneath the soil; finding the form between the fingers

fixing, wondering if knots can hold, if what is born

can bind and hoping that what they make might mend.


And she saw the fine filigree of her grandmother wave

from within the weave, remembered how it felt to be

entwined into a hold that held so much heart, the smell

of those hands now her smell, her scent, her hands

finding form as the circle turned into something greater,

broader; wider, darker, not all twists can be unturned,

wicker bends and leans in as if to whisper and falls away

and under and she wondered how it might find its way

back as the other laughed, the giggling girls with their long

skirts over skin already stained, looking for ways to twist

out of their own tales, platted into tatters too soon.


Maura gave birth to a Saint Bridgits Cross that day,

wove her worries into a fallen belief, soaking her swollen

aches with the reeds in the water that would never warm.

Brenda bore her basket like a baby, fragile folds

and tucks and wrapped the rim carefully like covering

a blanket neath the chin of a child she would never forget.


Before they broke the bread they made the baskets

the babies would be placed in, each reed drowned

in a river that ran from their fears, ties never attached,

hope never to be held while behind them, resplendent

after lashings and splicings, the black winged women

cawed over the faithful feathers they wore as robes

as their beaded hands prayed for the sinners now

servants for the so-called stains of their skin.


And she watched, as she weaved wicker through

the wicked world, in a convent grown cold,

in a kitchen to clean, those witnesses of judgement,

the untouched sisters of seeming servitude, religious

reeds never bent by other hands, folding only

to an unseen force, foreign to the feeling of other flesh,

twisting their rosary around their faultless fingers

as she turned the reeds around the coming regret

of being born and borne away to never come back.


Before they broke the bread they made the baskets,

before they broke their hearts, they buried all hope in their broken waters.


Audio version available on Soundcloud;



All words by Damien B. Donnelly

Artword by Jean Mackay of Drawn In,

Encouragement by Liz at Exploring Colour


Gentle breath
All as yet an impression
Morning yawns with uncertainty

Thoughts flicker on skin
Hairs rise to signal the day
My body stirs to the stillness

Feathers flap
Cracks are caught in the concrete
Roads are not the only route

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



We still taste the scent
of semi lucid laughter
edging over apples
being skinned and sweated
on extra ordinary Saturdays
of sweeping and stews,

still taste the crisp coating
of confusion beneath smiles
barely swimming over tears
there was not enough threat to trace.

We still trace, still blindfolded,
those outlines of imagination
now fading on distant walls
when dreams were seductive serpents
sucking the deafening dullness
out of roast Sundays
seasoned with unsensational rain
falling like the granulated gravy
that drowned our plates
as we looked to escape
the smell of a fear we couldn’t
pull the trigger on.

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



We seek shelter from the sudden sun
within this city of concrete class,

everything here is concreted,

change is considered
but takes centuries to occur.
I have been asked for fax numbers,
offered cheque books and been told
that fibre is only forming and would dial-up not do?!

We seek shelter from the storms
here in this city that sites class and culture

above the chaos that is corrupting.

Everything here is cornered in concrete.

Shadows have been whitewashed
and the pigeons sprayed
in a shade of peace
the seers cannot swallow

I watch the streets be swept clean
of history, locals reopening in boroughs
they’ve been blighted to,

to Hell or to Connaught
we were once told in Ireland,

from Paris to the peripherique

is the new phase as designers dig up
the bones of the barely dead,

so our city can look chicer, sweeter, safer.

I seek the only thing time has taken.
The past gets further while the shadows get stronger.

We seek shelter
under palaces still being prized
for their no longer pristine polish.

A second star does not a paradise make.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



I steal scents from strangers,
skins skirting a sense of someone else
like flowers sent to the wrong address

and thoughts lean towards intense,

fragrances on the less familiar
that feel more personal
than these perfumed impostors
pilfering my past, more a fancy to my form
than a complete composition of theirs,

I can tell a dahlia from a daisy.

I slip through these scents
on these skins of strangers
through moments on metros moving
and slide suddenly
into arms once wrapped in
and sheets once strangled by,
the prick of every rose
that can one day rot,

(one must remember to change
the water in the vase!)

all memories of muscle and muddles
that have since slipped from this lined skin,
like veins vying on leaves that have caught
themselves onto the branches of other trees.

Stale tales on the scents of new strangers.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



Liz from the wonderful blog here at WordPress Exploring Colour: asked us recently to find inspiration between a stunning photograph taken by Pete Hillman from his blog Ghosts In The Weir   and the concept of a Snow Dragon. The request was to write a poem or draw a Snow Dragon. I went for the poem and then, inspired by the photograph, made a little pastel sketch as an accompaniment

et voila… a little audio version first…


I stepped into the storm
and took the path between the pines,
I curved along the bank
of which the river bed defines.

I watched the falling snow
bequeath a blanket on the bark,
the water formed a wave
and then that wave became an arc.

I noticed how the birds
had all since taken from the trees,
and that the current held no caution
and the arc held no appease.

I stopped within the storm
among the silent pillared pines,
and held a breath by the bank
as aberrant arc unfurled its spine.

I watched the wave turn wing
and saw the tide become a tail
while onward came the snow
on the wind now a wail.

I’d stepped into the storm
between the pines along the path,
but by the bank that cut a curve
I feared that myth had met with wrath.

A tarragon arose,
had drawn breath upon the rivers,
a dragon of the snow
and my skin awash with shivers.

I wondered if the birds
had since foreseen in the future
this dragon from the tide
find its form as snow-capped creature.

I tried to turn and run
from this basilisk of the snow
until its eyes fell open
and I sensed this was no foe.

I stood upon my tracks
and felt my foolish fear descend,
no fire this beast did bare
and no danger his snout distend.

This dragon of fair flakes,
this mammoth mythos flushed in white,
no monster of the dawn
and neither demon of the night.

I stepped into the storm
and found my fate transform from snow;
for this vision from the water
did bring a tale for me to show.

I’d fallen from the magic
and had been jolted out of joy,
had grown to be a man
who’d lost the dreams he’d held as boy.

But there, in the clearing,
I finally watched my youth take flight,
from a ripple on the river
as this snow-capped dragon slayed the night.

All words and sketches by Damien B. Donnelly

Heartfelt thanks to Liz at Exploring Colour for the challenge (link to her blog above).

Photograph inspiration by Pete Hillman (link to his blog above):




We take slow steps into the sweet water, watch the current
caress the dark rock, the volcanic roar no longer rupturing,
its rage now rocked to slumber by this single shore. I lose
my shirt to time’s tide and this shimmering sand, I lift it up
and feel the weight that washed over it as you turn to face
the vast ocean and wonder what the next wave will bring
upon us. We have crossed currents, trained through towns
and cut across mountains, we have laughed at sadness
and cried over cocktails, we have come so far to wade out
into these waters as locals watch us with questions of how
and why. We have come curious to this country, we creep
along its coast like this tide, rummaging over these rocks,
wondering what happened to the heat it once ran with
when man was more forgiving and the mountain more daunting.
We climb the dormant mount, once maker of molten menace,
to watch the sun swim up from the sea and we count minutes
till the darkness will be disregarded as if time is all that’s needed
to destroy depression, decay, dysphoria. This mountain, once
a monster the sea could not settle and land could not control,
this country, once more than a division of north and south,
of emperors and conquers, Confucians and Catholics, devout
and deserted. We were once more than single souls searching
for the way back. We are tides, coming and going along
these beds we find shelter in, arms wrapped around us
like seaweed we equally fight off and hold down, we are lava,
trailing tunnels through our own thoughts, destroying
what we think to be too much but never quite knowing
how to fill the hollowness that’s left behind. We take steps
down into the open earth, adding sweaters to our short sleeves
and I wonder why it grows colder the closer we get to the core.
Isn’t the inferno on fire any more? Dante will be disappointed.
We look like ants crawling over cobbled rock as we curve
through these corridors created in centuries now cemented
into time and caress these walls and catch our breath
under cathedral ceilings created by no creature but by nature’s
creation. Deeper and deeper still and the silliness is replaced
by a silence, a stillness in this place where the waters drip
from porous rock and we look smaller, less special, not so strong
in this cave carved by once molten rock, lines of luscious lava
that laughed as its lungs opened and its power poured. Later,
back at the beach, the tide again tickles our feet as we stand
upon the rock that once before roared. We are equal parts
creator and equal parts responsible for all that we corrupt.
We have come curious to this country but find ourselves
asking more questions about ourselves than of this coast
that will still be counted long after we have been smashed
upon our own current. We take slower steps through
the sweetness and my heart beats louder, longer, lighter.


At the end of our holiday in South Korea we crossed over onto the Island of Jeju, UNESCO world heritage site and walked down into the Manjanggul lava tubes, underground caves dug out by lava while Trump and Kim had their summit. We waded out into blue waters lined with the remains of volcanic rock as the locals wondered how we’d gotten there and then climbed Seongsan (now dormant) volcano to watch the sun rise at 4.30am. The sun rose at 5.22am although the clouds arrived at 5.10am. This is why I offer a picture I took of the sunset the night before. You can’t have a sunset like this and still expect more, even if you hiked in the darkness.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on Soundcloud:




And finally we fly to Jeju Island, home to blue seas, lava tubes, volcanos, sunsets and tangerines…


A fisherman at the beach



Blue sea, white sand and volcanic rock





Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site


Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site


Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site


Seongsan Volcano, we climbed at 4.30am to watch the sunrise


Cloudy sunrise!



Drying shallots along the road


Manjanggul Lava Tube caves, UNSECO World Heritage Site


Manjanggul Lava Tube caves


Manjanggul Lava Tube caves


Along the Olle Trail, Jeju has 26 hiking trails




In the frame, Hallasan Mountain in the background




Carved from volcanic rock


Fruit Market and Tangerines


The Mother of mushrooms


Tangerines and strange shaped lemon coloured melons






Me, braced with braces!


Tribute to the women divers of Seowipo, some of whom are in their 80’s




Breakfast with garden views, a childfree garden. Seriously! There was a sign!


Ferry to Gaopdo, an island as flat as a pancake





The little village on Gapodo island


I want to go to this school!


Ferry Terminus



Lunch in a shell.



Stone Guards of Jeju City


Colorful transport




Hotel corridor, Seowipo, Sumorum Hotel


Balacony with a view, Sumorum Hotel


Arario Museum of modern art, also one in Seoul


Arario Museum


Arario Museum


Arario Museum


Arario Museum 


And the sunset begins on the holiday







IMG_2956 2

And goodnight South Korea

All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



Lanterns are tied around hope like we twist naivety
around the truth, like we twist around arms as if
we can strangle more comfort out of complacent,
the need to hold onto something regardless if fragility
is tied to a breeze we cannot keep at bay. Winds
are blowing in the northern skies while the breath
is held on these southern sands where freedom
is more reachable. This half has not forgotten
what it was to be a whole. Plato said we were split
in two, cast off towards a constant search
for the other half of that whole that is now a hole.
We curve around carvings time will not release,
we twist and turn through roots the soil has long
shown the light, we rise and fall to rise again
where treetops bow towards a beauty, untampered,
where tiny birds breathe life into wings at the will
of the wind, fragile creatures who know our fragility.
We sit and share food and smile at this simplicity
bowing under tended wood on mountain sloops
time has taught to be tender. We are reflections,
fleeting through finite flickers, we court each spark
hoping for a chance to be brighter than before,
hoping to be carved into something as lasting
as these rocks. We still dig despite the doubt,
lighting lanterns tethered to a half hope, half held,
ignoring how light the light that remains. We smile
when asked our opinion, a unity of north and south,
there is no answer, this is only a circus of showmen
blowing out their balls and so we bow out and tie
our own hopes to the bark of a branch of a tree
that has seen the whole and stood strong over the time
that dug out the hole. We are circles struck in two,
massaging our fractured diameter in case it will one day
be the position of a joint. And another lantern is lit.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Lanterns from the Bulkuk Temple, Gyeongju, South Korea

300 year old tree with paper wishes from the Hahoe Folk Village, Angdong, South Korea

Audio version available on Soundcloud: