I was in Paris at the time-
drawing rabbits on chalkboards
in an Irish pub, on a Friday,
in a cut-off corner of Chinatown.
Joanna had studied in Queens,
Mum was over from Dublin
and Anna and I
had promised each other
forever friends
though we barely survived
the slow pull of a decent pint.

Some dreams are not for daylight.

It was Easter- hence the bunnies,
and I dropped the chalk
when the tv turned to home-
suddenly eager for everything
to be penned in permanent.

Later, in Dublin, Mum met him
at a Do at some hotel.
I have to shake his hand, she’d said
and so she did.
The hand of Hume. A hand
that had held itself out to hope.

We were in Paris, at the time
but still the streets hushed
at the hero we’d found in Hume.


All words by Damien B. Donnelly



The old walls have been walled in
by warmer ones
but their youth has nothing on the cracks
and secrets the originals would disclose
if you could still sit around that old fire
and watch the smoke rise up to the high ceilings
since brought down to a more manageable level
and yet I have seen that hidden height-
looking down from the upper attic-
and I know there are whispers trapped
in those forgotten few feet
just like the heat that must still linger
behind the fake wall and down below the soot
now gathered over the old hearth
where you all once gathered to hear the tales
of how life was tilled and turned and that shrill excitement
when someone first turned on a light,
indoors, in a wide-walled room with high ceilings
that kept the heat away from the feet,
a little room where once there was only darkness
just like the light that was turned on, out there,
in that Space where this world spins
while we know nothing of the whispers
that were once words,
echoing out from other planets that too evolved.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



One born to song and sorrow
One killed by serpent’s bite
One lost to hands of Hades
One walk from dark to light

If I could say to hold the note
If I could say to keep the chord
If I could say that she will follow
And that fear should be ignored

One descends to catch the hand
One walks by light of moon
One leads and plays the lyre
One follows and trusts the tune

If you can trust that she’ll follow
If you believe the devil’s dare
If your song is true and steady
You can escape the Cerberus snare

But Orpheus was melody
And Eurydice his muse
But Mr. Hades was conductor
And kept the band beating blues.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



I used to sit here sipping cocktails I couldn’t afford
just because you sat here years before me, drinking
lust from lips that weren’t yours. I used to sit here
in the heady heat of all you had eaten of each other,
wondering if I stayed long enough would I be able
to taste what it was like to devour all that desire.

I used to come here to scribble down all I might one day
forget and I wondered if she forgot you as quickly
as she turned the page to the next date in her diary.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly.

This month is about kissing goodbye to Paris and its passion. When I returned to Paris four years ago, I lived in the 14th arrondissement, metro station Alesia, where the restaurant Le Zeyer still stands and serves. This was once the haunt of the desires of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, who lived down the road at 18 villa Seurat in 1931.




High on a hilltop, you climb above your age
and whisper the wisdom of your ancestors like its wealth
(hush, I say, to hear the humble)
worn words as woven into the earth as the roots
of the trembling trees standing to support those above it.

High on a hilltop, a former teacher caresses history
like a caretaker tends the glories growing in a garden he was given,
tales time would have tossed but his time mind still meditates over
while I wonder where I was a year, a month, an hour ago?

High on a hilltop, we lean into the comfort
to accept all that we have found indecipherable.

We take the right side at the entrance, as instructed,
and bow, thrice, and the empty space recalls the place of the emperor
who once took the central path while the guards, armed
with faith in the form of a dragon, harmony in the form of their music
and strength in the size of their sword, wards off the demons
and welcomes in the inner light.

There is light here, a gentle light, a subtle light to caress the skin,
to sink within as we mount and meditate on how we got here,
to this hill, to this land, to this life, to this breath.

High on the hilltop, we breathe in the simplicity of common incense
and sway as the chimes ring out to remind us
we are not one, alone, but one single part of the whole

and we bow again, thrice, and follow the stream that knows more
about its route than we will ever to understand about our own.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly. This is a reworking of an older poem for a week recalling travels in South Korea in 2018. 



We cannot truly change that which
we are, we cannot really laugh louder,
be brighter, stay longer than our journey
has already jotted down in a journal
whose language is not our own.
We cannot truly change the air,
the ocean, the fire that forges its way
through us, leaving us inspired
or expired, hot or just overheated.
We cannot truly change much
but we can cast corrections
into the darkness caught in corners,
we can see sages that hover over heads
if we need to add meat to the monotony,
singing songs of stories never too old
to be retold, never too new to be anything
more than necessary.
We cannot truly change that which
we are, we cannot promise to hold
any longer than time allows us,
we are tied to the tension of the knot
that knows more than we do,
whose heart lays on a hinge
that hangs both the hope
and the hammer. We cannot truly
change much but we can learn to listen
to lips that have lingered, that have
laughed in the face of lies
and been nourished by the face
of the fortunate who found favour
with who they were and then substance
in the soft stream of steady words.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

From the series A Month with Yeats






‘If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.’

Patrick H. Pearse, President of the Provisional Government of Irish Republic, Kilmainham Gaol, May 2nd 1916, later executed at 3.30am, 3rd May, by the gunshots of 12 soldiers. He was 36 years old. He left notes of goodbye for his family including his mother and brother Willie who was a teacher at St. Enda’s college which Patrick had established as a school to teach boys not only the English language but also their own Irish language. Patrick (or Padraic in Irish) had no idea that his brother was to be placed in the cell next to his own in Kilmainham to be be executed the following day.


Kilmainham Goal, opened in 1796 in Dublin, was to be the first reform prison in the Ireland, but later, during the famine it became overcrowded with dreadful conditions as people sought to be arrested so they could have a roof over their heads and the possibility of one meal a day. It later detained many of the leaders of the rebellions during the Irish fight for independence, most significantly after the Easter Rising of 1916 when 14 of its leaders were shot at dawn including James Connelly, Joseph Plunkett and Patrick Pearse. It closed its doors in 1924. It previously imprisoned Eamon DeValera, the 3rd president of the Republic of Ireland, who later came back to reopen the building as a museum.

Twelve shots rang out
at dawn
the hope
a rising
would be done.

Twelve shots rang out
but all they could spill
was blood
not spirit.


Damien B. Donnelly

scrape their names
into the concrete
that’s what makes


the silence screams
with the sound
of your smashed soul
within the stillness
of these cells

‘…I would have brought you royal gifts, and I have brought you
Sorrow and tears: and yet, it may be
That I have brought you something else besides-
The memory of my deed and my name
A splendid thing which will not pass away
When men speak of me, in praise and in dispraise,
You will not heed, but treasure your own memory
Of your first son.’


A poem by P. H. Pearse entitled To My Mother, written just before he was executed.

Did she hold thereafter,
that Mother gifted of sorrows,
that splendid thing to her heart
as the rifles ripped the remains
of both her sons
across the helpless walls.


Damien B. Donnelly.

Joseph Mary Plunkett was married to Grace Gifford (a protestant who’d converted to catholicism) on the night of 3rd May, 1916 in the prison chapel surrounded by soldiers in a brief ceremony where they only spoke their vows. In the early hours of the following morning Grace was brought to her new husband’s cell. They were given 10 minutes to say their goodbyes. It is said they stood together in silence. Joseph was executed at dawn at the age of 28, less than 9 hours after being married.

The cell of Eamon De Valera, 3rd President of the Republic of Ireland

The list of those executed after the Easter Rising 1916

By the morning of May 12th 1916, James Connelly had already been shot twice while trying to hold the GPO (Dublin’s General Post Office and the main scene of the rising from Easter Monday up to their surrender the following Saturday 29th April) and was already dying from those wounds. He could not stand or walk and so was carried into the yard on a stretcher and had to be secured to a chair so the 12 soldiers could execute him.

the nearest light
feels the furthest from reach.


Damien B. Donnelly

Into the shadow
Of a cold cell
There is only one choice
Trust in the coming light
Or be blown out.


Damien B. Donnelly


All photographs by Damien B Donnelly

Words by me unless otherwise stated.