THIS HISTORY OF A HOME

 

I live now
in various shadows
and only a few whose forms I’d distinguish.
By a round tower
on a little hill
at the far end of a short road
I can read the names of the first ones
who named this place
as a home,
I’ve no faces for these folk
who were whispers even to my own mother,
the mother and father of her father
who is now but a whisper to me.
The bag man he called me
till he passed on when I was 5.
I remember
saying goodbye
to his bald shiny head
in a dark room with brown walls
and a glass atrium you walked through to get to him.
Now he walks beyond the glass
while I’ve come back to the rooms
that once held his warm voice and soft shuffle
along with his wife, my gran, my nana
with her cardigans
and concern and coppers
for the collections in the church
and later, in the summer-
for outings to the slot machines
where the train comes
to an end at the edge of the sea.
All things have endings, even waves crash.
Nana is now
in the grounds of that church
she gave her coppers to, next to her man,
her Pop, real name Bernard- my middle name.
All things come back
like days
after darkness,
names that we lost
and laughter after loss
and then mothers to their mothers,
like mine did when Dad lost us,
and sons to their mothers,
like I did when Paris said adieu.
Adieu- to God, it means. Funny way to say goodbye.
All things come home, like me now
in this house,
now my mothers,
once home to her mother’s sacred heart
and her father’s devilment,
once the home to my mother’s grandparents
and her brothers and sisters
and the cats and the dogs
and the odd chicken
they kept in the pig-cot that never held a pig
where the boys stored all the pears
they’d pilfered from the orchard.
We planted
rhubarb last week
and a sprig of wild spinach
I’d plucked from the edge of the savage sea
in the back garden of this little house
where the shadows watch over us
in various forms
that I’m trying to distinguish.

  

All words and photos by Damien B Donnelly

TO CAPTURE EACH OTHER TOGETHER

 

I took photos of us once, together, to remember
all I had before I set off to find myself in other fields
that other lands had whispered of other welcomes
across other waves, moments to return to later as I navigated
new roads, strange turns and gates I had to manage alone.
Now, our shadows sing again of the old songs we once sung
when we hadn’t considered to count our connections.
We potter and ponder and eat and gossip and get grumpy
and take to our rooms and then eat again and garden and paint
and re-ponder and thread newly discovered thoughts across
old fields that still hold fertile as a familiar favourite.
When we come now to gates, we have seen what extends
beyond them and appreciate the safety of what exists within them
and so stop and listen to that song, recently resumed,
beneath all this stillness- mother and son, singing slowly
on the same path, somewhere between the coming home
and the lockdown. Someone sent wishes recently and I said-
We’re back together and they replied- You were never apart.

Mother and son, capturing moments because somewhere else,
out there in another field, another town, another land,
another mother has lost another son or a daughter to a gun
or a bomb or a noose or a knife or a knee or a pill
or a pointless moment that no camera will ever
be strong enough to capture how the world just stops,
thereafter
I took photos of us once, but now we simply try to capture
as much time as we can possibly hold.

  

All words and photos by Damien B Donnelly

ORIGINS

 

We
are
not
always
daughter to the day or son to the stars.
Some
times
space
shrinks
and we find ourselves light years away
from
the planets
that hold the answers to where we came from.
We
take
giant
steps
across
uncharted
terrains,
nerves attached to transmitters connected to nothing but a need to know.
Eminent
are these
swinging
spheres we
circumnavigate
in search of the solution to the question of how we came to draw our first breath.

 

All words and photos by Damien B. Donnelly

TO COME TO THE TABLE

 

Knowledge is not an end in itself

Some of the best books have made me yawn-
After Nietzsche I needed a nap
And Joyce makes me question often
My ability to comprehend the written word.
Perhaps that was always his aim.

Knowledge is not an end in itself

No jump is ever made
after reading how it’s done.
I swam like a fish as a child
In the steady stream of a warm bath
But to dive into any depth was never something
Any teacher could tempt me to do.
Though it never stopped them trying

But I’d been born already aware of falling.

Knowledge is not an end in itself

Not a line in one single book
Or a simple, harmless push
Into the incoming wave.

Knowledge is how we learn to stand

Living is how we come to understand
What it takes to stand up.

 

All words and photos by Damien B Donnelly

THE NEXT NOTE

 

Wondering how to move now
after such torpidity,
wondering how to recognise now
the trenches as we take slow steps
across the battle fields of playgrounds,
bus stops and aisles packed
with questions of contagion carried
in other people’s trollies.
Wondering how to move again
after such paralysis-
limbs lurching as thoughts shift
forward and then back
as if it were a dance.

There’s a couple dancing, always,
in a field of folly in the 8th,
in Paris, in faraway France.
She wears a red hat of nonsense
upon coiffed hair and he-
a blue suit, a little worn,
a little withered like himself
but they dance, always,
next to a bridge where a fountain
once moved to the melody.

They dance in a moment,
a single solid moment, a moment
that has past, like they have
and the hand too that turned this stone
into a study of a couple
who hold each other tightly.
But they are statue.
Stone. Still.

They’ve been caught
on a note that a band once played,
for a moment
before they packed up and left.
We are now careful dancers,
stepping out bravely
to catch that next note
before the band moves on.

   

All words and photos by Damien B. Donnelly.

Parc Monceau Paris 

TRACKS AND CHANGES

 

They’ve built a running track beneath the low hum
of this humdrum small town with its two pubs,
skinny batch and round tower. Men lift weights
with uncovered arms that’ve been internally attacked
by giant sized popcorn. I lift smaller weights
in the privacy of the shadows in the back garden
but have still yet to distinguish the difference
between mass and muscle. Every day they build
more roads, ring roads, roundabouts around us
as if concrete tongues were unfolding from metal
monsters driven by manmade megalomaniacs
while we take shorts walks around slowly widening
circles, digging out those older lanes that twist and turn
around rural trees instead of the line of an urban plan.
Everything keeps changing- bodies, muscles, roads,
routes, plans, personalities. Nature is the only constant-
still rooted in who she always was. I was not born
to be so confident. Even my name is not the name
I began with and even earlier someone gave me
another name before giving me away. But I’ve stopped
running and covering things over, being naked now
is so much more revealing than when I was born,
the scars on this skin tie together the threads
of my tale, even these skinny arms have been seduced
recently by so much more sunshine than ever before,
digging through the dirt to get closer to those roots
turning through the earth. The view is once again
familiar when looked at close up, in detail,
even if all the cars race you away from what matters-
the vines of veins trying to climb out of these ditched
trenches. They have a running track here in this town
and when I follow its route I realise how enlightening
it can be to make steady circles around all that you
had not yet considered about yourself instead of
hasty tours around the edges of this cold old world. 

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

TWO NORTHERN MAGNETS

 

We scold,

even at frightening distances,
you burn, there, at the centre of
the sun
and I roar back across the stars at you,
from this comet that cannot commit,
at how you could run
so cold.
Our landings

were nothing less than lumpy-
you wanted to shine so I caught you that sun
and I wanted to amplify time
so you considered for me
the moon
but were already consumed
by your own blaze
and I caught this cursed comet in its place.
I think of you

as I finally defy time
on the tail end of this burning star.
We lacked the gravity needed
to bring a balance to
any orde
but we each held magnets
that repelled the other to the far ends
of space.
In the distance

I see something great
that might be your light
and smile back

before I spit

across the sky
and wonder if it’s enough
to put you out.
We scold still,

even at these great distances. 

   

All words and photographs by Damien. B. Donnelly

8 HAIKU AFTER ULYSSES, BLOOMSDAY

 

1

Nimbly leaping,
Wing-like hands all fluttering.
The forty-foot hole.

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2

Make room in the bed
Said he with key now at hand
And plump body plunged.

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3

Tell him she says but
What can he do, if not smoke?
Life’s not a rose bed.

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4

Lethargy. Flowers.
The air feeds most. Sensitive.
Botanic Hothouse.

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5

The thirty-two feet
Per second. Careless air. Law
Of falling bodies.

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6

Almond and benzoin-
It brings out her darkness when
Added to white wax.

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7

Sweet lemony wax
Yes I. Do it in the bath.
Curious longing.

8

Her tongue was too long.
Her blouse- too open, she says.
Pot calls to kettle.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly. Inspired by Ulysses by James Joyce for Bloomsday2020

 

POSTS AND PINS, LOTUS EATERS, BLOOMSDAY

 

Are there any letters for me?

Soldiers eyes watch
from behind dead frames
while he assumes to be a flower.

Henry hopes
and hosts thoughts of other blooms

like his wife back in bed
eating bread and singing of other men.

Leo sent lines off to lift temperatures
naughty he is beyond his Molly-
all boiling with Brazen

The reader turns writer
and returns a pin with a promise to punish

But the dead soldiers will never rise
And dreamer sees only a bath of limp flowers.

What rose blooms without a thorn.

Purchasing lemon scented soap
he thinks of others while dreaming of bathing.

Letters float out from under bridges. Limp.

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All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

BLOOMSDAY; A BIT OF ULYSSES TRIP AROUND DUBLIN

 

James Joyce Martello Tower, Sandycove, opening of Ulysses, Telemachus- with Stephen, Buck, Haines and the Milk Woman

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The Forty Foot, from the opening chapter

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The Door of Eccles Street, home to Leopold and Molly Bloom now in the James Joyce Museum

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Sandymount and Strand from Proteus with Stephen Dedalus

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Formerly the spot of Nelson’s Pillar, now the Spire in O’Connelly Street opposite the GPO where Bloom, under the pseudonym of Henry Flower ,collects a letter

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The General Post Office, O’Connell Street 

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The National Museum where Leopold Bloom escapes Blazes Boland in Chapter 8

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The National Library from chapter 9 featuring Leopold Bloom and Stephen and ‘Hamlet’

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Sweny, the chemist where Bloom buys Lemon Scent Soap and his wife’s lotion in ‘Lotus Eaters’

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Glasnevin Cemetery for Paddy Dignam’s funeral 

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The Wooden Bridge out to Bull Island which Stephen Dedalus crosses in The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, prior to the timings of Ulysses

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The James Joyce Center, Dublin

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Haiku at Jame Joyce Museum

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Joyce remembered at Moli, Museum of Literature, Ireland 

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All photographs of Joyces’ Dublin by Damien B. Donnelly