The Dragon Slayer in Doolin

Brown cow seeks shelter
Such weight under so much rock
Hush, soft comes the sea

My past is not buried beneath all that rock and weed like I first witnessed. My past has become moss and mould that has made more of these monstrous walls than I first saw. See how the seedlings shoot from cuts and cracks. I have the same spots on my skin, now more worn, but also less sharp, less prickly, less pointed. Direction is something which distracted for too long, too far. Perhaps that is why I keep returning now to the harbour. The light from the lighthouse turns, it is not still, not stagnant. The sea cannot be captured. I cannot be caught. There was weight, but then comes the wave. Weight and wave. Wait, for soon there will be wave. See the brown cow standing.

Where did this come from; the ‘Cliff Ginko’ workshop hike, in Doolin, Sunday Morning, Writers’ weekend, we walked to the coast and back again through our past, we stopped and wrote, walked further on through our present, we stopped and wrote, walked further again into our future, we stopped and wrote and then headed back to the hotel, a cosy snug, some hot tea and we summed it all up which is how I arrived at the above passage and haiku. Below are the free-thought notes taken at the stops along the way…
Into the Past…
Rocks, rocks and famine walls, my nose runs, slow pace, fast wind, the mind rushes to that scene; the beach as a boy, breathless, always breathless and feeling so much less, then, at that time, now too, oh for God’s sake. Sake, stake. I felt trapped, my chest and that stake. I feel I was born out of shape, formless; a pebble, plenty of potential, ripe, but then you came and piled rocks upon potential, gave me your form, your design, heavy, clunky, sharp bits, sticking out and over and into me. I hated the penis, sharp bit sticking out, wilful, uncontrollable, on the outside, everything on the outside, no cover, no care, no armour. And yet all that weight.
Into the Present…
Little bird flies in, speckled, black, specs of white, like the sky, likes the clouds, darkness but light, behind, beyond. We walk further, out closer, wind coming in, wind and then water. Waves of weight, then comes anger, anger, more and then in the chest, panic. Feel the panic, free the panic. Coming out and up for air. Breathe. Feel the power. Power, like a shower. Welcome to Doolin Pier, the sign says. Welcome to the Dragon Slayer, I say, here in Doolin, who knew Jamie Lannister was here. I come to the sea, to wash off the dust like she did, like Joni did, after the city. The water cannot be captured, cannot be caught. No droplet, like she said, all those hours, but never the same water. I cannot be who you want me to be. I see bridges and roads and wires, telegraph wires, all leading and moving and coming and going. And here I am; coming home. I will slay dragons for you, remember, how I told you and you and you and you and you. Fuck, how I told you and you and you buried me in so much armour. I came to the sea for the salt to rust me, to break me free. We pass a house of loose old rock, rumbling, crumbling. How much will be left of who I am when I finally break free? See me, See Me! Don’t forget me when I take to the field to fight those dragons for you. I see you making already for the sink, to bash those dishes. Out of sight, out of mind. And I said it all because I wanted someone to slay a dragon for me, that day, by the beach, one day, some day. And now it is up to me, Me. I will be the sea and the Slayer. I cross oceans of my own dreams and desires and I will find my own shore. I will not be (cannot make out last hand written word as hand was frozen from the crisp morning air).
Into the future…
I come up and out and catch the light coming through the clouds. I’ve cut through, Joni, your clouds and those illusions. I run fingers of frozen flesh along these walls, settled now as my form frees itself. I don’t have to break it down, only chip away at it in places, smooth till it settles. I have rubbed my hands and hopes along these walls as this dragon slayer, blue as a tattoo, illusions and clouds, come together. Brown cow seeks shelter in the cut-out of the rock. See how much he hears the sea sigh of life.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

For Kathy




  1. Of course you’re unpredictable and have chosen to write about the brown cow. More predictably I’ve homed in on that white cow, almost like the proverbial “black sheep” in its difference. Standing there confident, self-contained, calm. Prepared to be a companion and willing to show solidarity, but not in need of them or the shelter. I admire the white cow.

    “There was weight, but then comes the wave. Weight and wave. Wait, for soon there will be wave.” Those are such great lines Damien!

    • Thank you Liz. It’s funny as I took the picture the day before the hike but on the morning of the hike itself we passed the cows again but I saw the brown cow this time and not the white one, who is behind the white cow in this photo. I thought someone might ask about the choice of the brown cow and not the white. Either way, they seeped into the epic three hour journey 🤗😘☘️

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