Identifying Parts of You in Plays

after Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams

Violet descending, grieving light in the white shade
of a jungle that strangled the dinosaurs,
Venus; the fly trap for a summer’s notebook
of fine young cannibals along a coast of blazing sands
where saint Sebastian dug down into sin
and beak broke into the belly of all they had named
as enchanted.

The Blue jays had departed to other places;
blond shores after a season of too many browns.

In the operating room, sugar is a dose of doctor
caught between cause and the cost of being peaceful
after the dry heat of all that horror,
of sliding desire back into the parts it cannot dissect
and the Drum not bright enough to silence.

Rainbows were only reflections of light
before they became pathways of pride.

Suddenly, in the last summer of kindergarten,
I am closeted case in the examination room of teenager;
turning Tennessee pages tentatively,
dreaming of tasting how it would feel to catch fire
for a moment, in a summer that didn’t burn,
on a faraway beach that stank of wolf’s breaths
and flesh eating birds; a desire to be torn
from the choke of all those Venable pearls.

Lonely is deeper than death, alphabet blocks
are only clutter in the darkness of a closet.
A lobotomy is a cut cold to consideration.

This was one of the first plays I saw the movie version of when I was trying to come to terms with my own identity. It’s difficult to understand who you are when on TV or stage they were not even allowed utter the word gay or homosexual and a lobotomy was ordered for someone who tried to explain it- Let’s just cut it out! I read this poem on the Pride episode of Eat the Storms, the podcast podcast, one of two poems I opened the show with. Spotify link below but also on Apple, Anchor, Google, ITunes, Breaker, Castbox, Overcast, Pocket Cast…

The Sum Of

Everything is about numbers;
numbers to hold,
numbers to call,
numbers to count you back to when you last came,
to where you came from,
to the miles you’ve moved
since then, the things you lost,
the weight you gained, waiting.
Everything is about numbers;
the breath you chase,
the peace once possible,
the place you never knew you were meant to be in
in relation to where you ended up,
in its place.
Everything is about numbers,
2 metres apart,
4 doors to the left
of where you thought you were going,
3 corridors in mourning grey, daisies on the floor,
1st floor,
cubicle number 5,
patient number 196629.
I was 18
the last time I was here.
I was 4 days in the 1st ward where 2 men died
on my 1st night.
They moved me
to another ward, later
when they figured out I wasn’t to be number 3.
I stayed 5 more days.
I’d been courting glandular fever-
the kissing disease, the doctor said with a giggle
and the nurse smiled, all 20 years of her wanting.
It had been 2 months
since I’d told someone I liked boys
instead of breasts.
6 months after lying in bed with the kissing fever
I was kissed for the 1st time
on the 8th of august.
I was 23 days away from 19.
Sometimes you catch the disease first,
sometimes it’s all in your head although
the comfort of kisses can’t be calculated on charts
like the outcome of an ECG
that happened at 13.46pm.



You had long black hair, a horse’s mane
that I held as we rocked through early years
and a red furry coat I never stopped to question
while we rode across uncertain terrines that echoed
his silence and her longing to not give up anything again.
Even then, even at play, I knew their mask of a marriage ran
short of imagination. I cut your hair later, amid the tension
but before the divorce, when I would have cut any cord
at the time if it meant getting out, getting away, me
and a red rocking horse with a mutilated mane,
wishing, later, that things we cut could find
a way to grow back,



All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



We painted walls into the paradise we wanted
before I learned colour had its limits. Borders
had been beaten into our canvas long before
I touched the brush with borrowed thoughts.

We painted orange coloured stars and wild hopes
onto concrete walls and I trembled as she told me
the parrots, perfectly positioned in stuffed stillness,
pranced on their perches while I slipped to dream.

We’re taught what is truth, as children, not told
to truly think. He was tipped in black with no name,
a night sky forgotten by the moonlight and we-
impressionists, desireless to be outlined in darkness.

Children not the creators of fact but the little sheep
who come to submit to the not-so-subtle suggestions.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



The trail is not simply
sewn with a needle of the sun
threaded through the eye of the moon
even if I sometimes feel the pinch of that warm stitch
as I reach out to that small step claimed for man.
Thought is not always free from guilt-
we cannot get close to the sun without waring the scars,
the Id js designed to devour, the ego to condemn
before the conscious can even come close
to consider its part in this creation.
This skin does not melt under the burning sun
but it froze once, under a certain stare, as a child,
in the doorway between that blinkered ray of innocence
and the ice-cold stare of understanding.
We are all patchwork paths-
joined at seams and torn from others,
some scattered careless, despite all the patterns
etched into our pinched skins that freeze but do not melt
though I felt the heat
once, on the other side of the world
where the moon seemed so much closer to the sun,
but our egos never found a compatible way to align our sides
and feed the Id that itched so.
The trail is not simply
sewn with a needle of the sun
threaded through the eye of the moon.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



Light can be ubiquitous, even in the darkness of youth
but it’s not always lucid- sometimes it twists shadows
into shapes that seem so much more sinister.

Innocence is a bright spark that can be knocked down
to stunted shadow by a thoughtless twist in the tale
or a pedestal pitched at an imperfect position.

Light is not always lucid when children are canvases-
blank boards where adults come to play at painting
a costly version of truth or dare upon fragile flesh.

I thought happiness was new paint on worn walls.

I thought he’d been derived from the devil.

I thought I was positively perfect.

Later, I discovered those last three lines where things
I’d been taught to think. Light can be ubiquitous
but in the darkness- teachings can trigger terrors.


All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



We took the train, one day,
a Sunday that a photograph
suggests was set in summer,

I remember how the wind
wound whimsically round
the wilderness of our youth
as we watched waves crash
currents upon crushed cliff

as we came closer to watch
those tides slip out further,
pulling from us the laughter
we’d not learned to control

and carrying it on to places
we didn’t know to imagine,

each of us an island uncharted
yet to pin our point on a map.

Three cousins, coming closer
to the shore of those decisions
and a mother, watching us
laughing, learning, growing,

swimming and moving. Out.


All words and some of the 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 do not play chess.
I grew bored of board games at an early age, as an only child
who lived in his head where fairies were magical and not mauled.
I guess I had enough make believe on my shoulder, already.
I was ultra-shy as a kid,
I guess I didn’t understand who I was and tried not to get tied up
in conversations that consisted of ruminations of who I wanted
to become. Identity was difficult to determine on a blank canvas
that already had sections sinking below the surface.
We had a cherry blossom tree
in the front garden that rained pink petals onto the lawns
in late spring, I remember standing under them in a white suit,
new holder of the holy spirit and wondering if it would make it
any easier and what is the weight of a knot.
I would slay dragons for you.
I remember saying that over and over, I’d heard it once, in a movie
when I was too young to know how many people I’d say it too
and how few would slay even a tame dog in return.
I know who I am, now
since those quiet days under the fall of the cherry when rainy days
meant silly games and the coming of the spirit didn’t have as much
effect on my soul as it did on my wallet.
I have tasted more, too-
beauty, bounty, boys, bitches, sunsets and saints, gods and clowns,
serpents that tasted sweet and a certain kind of cute
that gave venomous a new name. I too have found the bitter side
of who I can be, they’d put me on a pedestal at a young age
and left me there, perishing alone, at that height and since then my knees
have always trembled at the sight of stairs.
I’ve climbed right down since then
and managed to make my way out of the gutter while putting together
my own idea of what it takes to embrace the darkness while shining
like a fucking star.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



I played waiter on weekends to women and their well-worn wishes
and worries, after or in between or in avoidance of the shopping
and washing and cleaning and stewing, mothers sitting with mother,
packed onto the flattened pile of the green velvet sofa, scorched
with leftover tunes from parted parties and expired expectations,
milk and one sugar, black and boiling with a biscuit, coffee for her
up the road with hair in a chignon as if she wasn’t from round here
and later, maybe, a glass of wine squeezed from a box with a tap;
thinking we were posh when they changed our name from Coolock
to Clonshaugh. I was a willing waiter to these women on weekends
when they dropped in through the backdoor, over the mopped floor
to avoid the hassle of husbands and kids and all the copious concerns
that came a calling, later, looking for coins and cuddles and timings
for dinners and hoping for a spare biscuit while pulling up a chair
in the corner below the parrot; puffed up and padded on his perch.
I was a waiter, waiting, back then, on the far side of understanding,
wondering where I fitted in between the orders and observations,
teas and coffees, the women congregating and the men left waiting,
adding the cream and dunking biscuits and pondering the placement
of that perfectly positioned parrot; puffed and padded upon perch.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly.

Inspired by a Poetry Prompt on Twitter.