They call them Russian dolls
but there was a shop that sold them
by the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam,
not far from those ruby lit windows
displaying Dutch dolls in de Wallen,
both of which provided excitement
for wet tourists under rain coats
in the soaked summer months
terrified of traffic and tram tracks
and serial cyclists ringing their bells
like they were shooting guns.

The Russian dolls within dolls
within dolls were higher in price
than those locals offerings
you couldn’t bring home with you
after the money was handed over.
I used to see them, in their windows,
in the mornings- reading the paper
with their crispy toast and mint teas
in G-strings and little else.

I find it funny how undressing
reveals even less of the person
than being fully clothed.
I wonder if those Russian dolls
hold more truths in their multiple layers-
building up into a whole
instead of stripping down for a price.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



She was called Éireann, even in Holland,
(misschien vreemd, ik weet het)
though she was greener than I ever was,
back then, with the mud of the land
still caked into her guards while I was off
and running, ever forward, adding guards
to my guards till I saw the earth was round
when home appeared again, on the horizon.
(Vreemd, of misschien niet).

Later, decked in a fur coat of fine snowflakes
that clung to your form while they melted
off mine, you appeared as blank canvas
before a river to skate away on, like she sang,
once, in a city that was not this one. Funny,
what sinks in and what drowns, even light
can fade into the wrong water, even water
can remain on solid structures as icicles.
Some things cling on while others slip away.
(Vreemd, of misschien niet).

Round that red bricked bridge we rode,
a decade of being Dutch, (how long?
Ik weet het- vreemd, toch?), thinking
I was only stranger and the road my home,
but those were the days when the wheels
spun in circles around canals that turned
back on themselves. Maybe that’s how
we learn to come home- spinning in circles,
on roundabouts or her carousel of seasons
that went round and round.

She was called Éireann, even in Holland.
Maybe the answers to all I was looking for
were already there in her name.
Misschien wel!

Maybe some things take a cycle to sink in.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



I was tall, when I was a small child,
but stopped later,
somewhere in between adolescence and giraffe.

A giraffe would be impossible to sit behind
at the cinema.

In the cinema, in Amsterdam, people talked
like it was a cafe with an incredibly large background TV
and didn’t seem to nonsense from the hungry mice
beneath the low lighting.

Light can often distract decisions on how to dress
in the murky fog of morning when the mirror won’t help explain
who you are.

I helped a passenger on a plane, once-
I placed their bag in the overhead compartment and felt abused
later when they claimed the total width of the arm rest
as if I was only too willing to be a servant
to their sovereignty.

A king in a castle is not always as fulfilled as a man, quiet,
in his shed or the kid reaching down to grab a hold of happiness
while growing up, somewhere in between adolescence

and the astonishment of a giraffe.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



I found you in Amsterdam, weet je nog?

Somewhere on the Overtoom, in the summer
of my slow 30’s when home was a broad barge
on a narrow gracht. Lijnsbaansgracht it was.
Weet je nog? Natuurlijk!

I wonder how deep the things we’ve held
are carved into our core- like all those letters
you once housed that formed words, that gave way
to structured sentences that someone then pressed
and printed and someone else, sitting far away,
read and wondered

or does it all fall away, natuurlijk

when we ourselves slip from the canal that held
a barge, that housed a home where a letter press
rested against the port wall and I wondered
what it once held.

Weet je? Natuurlijk niet!


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



I saw a jellyfish once, just beyond the tide,
a tick away from time’s reach where it couldn’t sting.

On the same beach, once, though years later,
as we dipped our desires below the moonlight,
I lost your ring.

A week later I found your sting was laying in other beds.

I thought love was less abundant then, before I left,
before I found Paris and perished slightly under its pretensions

though I never shivered at that time or in the water,

not that time with the jellyfish, or later,

when that base metal that would never become gold
freed itself from my finger.

I cast you all off later, after, when Paris passed
and I set off to chase bland blond hairs
through the dunes the Dutch had recalled from the sea.

I agree that I have worn many rings since then
but not one of them have drowned me-

I always pick one size bigger so it slips off
without leaving too much of a mark.

I think that’s why I like salads-
chopped lettuce, some pulses and a breast of chicken-

they don’t take much cleaning up, afterwards.
However, the French, as a rule,
never cut through salad, on their plate, in public.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Inspired by a Twitter Poetry Prompt 



We moved, once, and habitual was your foot to my follow,
in debt my blush to your concern

like we were the oxygen of the other, at either ends of the water.

We swam, once, to the other, in crossed currents, in avoidance
of those cold-blooded fish dipping their blond hairs
into clotted canals that your darker locks turned briefly bland,

the beginnings of a ballet in two parts, you the body and I the babble

written in flame on the water

in this city sucked from the sea with its ferry, crossing and connecting,
as habitual to its route as I became to the curve of your spine.

You were fire and I the fury. Or was as I the fire and you the flight?

We lit fires, for moments, on the water, flames that found their place,
finally, in the stars, fading before fully noticed.

We moved, once, as if each was the compliment to the other’s jewel
even if we knew that time was not the compliment to the us

that danced, for a time, as a flame, on the surface of the water.

If I was still there, by that water, waiting for the blue ferry, crossing,
I would habitually dip foot into current to test its temperature.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly


Inspired by a Twitter Prompt


























All photographs by Damien B Donnelly

Today we are recalling the colours of my previous home town as yesterday a Dutch shipping company came along to move my belongings from my 5th floor/no-lift Paris apartment and start directing them towards Dublin. One Dutch man, one flams man, and me, the irishman, in Paris, speaking Dutch, sweating and running up and down 5 flights of wide, winding and weather worn Parisian wood steps, and doing it all in less than 20 mins!!!