HEARTH

 

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

THE FURNITURE MAKERS

 

We build things- built things-
like shower rails and kitchen lights,
Keto dishes that died in the oven,
theories on converting Korea into forever
and not just a 3-week diversion from dysphoria.
Kisses, we built kisses out of thin air
and laughter, laughter we built as if
it was all we needed to feed our day.
I was the funny one and you laughed
at times like you’d never laughed before.
Sometimes we built bridges
to cross divides we didn’t always understand,
sometimes we built boats but forgot the oars.
Sometimes we built temporary positions
around sofas and shallow shows to balance
the shit we didn’t have the correct tools
to deal with.
Once, we built a language
to lock ourselves into while on the outside
where it could be cold and cutting and callous.
Sometimes we built walls
for the other to climb over-
sometimes we liked to test the other-
to tease, to taunt, to attract, to test
the recoil of the elastic.
We build things- we built things-
like shower rails and silly meals and signs
and languages and kisses to complete
and sometimes we built walls
though, in the end,
one was too high to get back over.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly.

Photo from an art installation in Jeju, South Korea

WHEN I DREAM OF WHO WE WERE

 

We used to hold hands, a quiver
along the skin
at touch,                     do you remember?

You handled me like I was food,
to be prepared pealed back,
to find the taste within.

I was advised not to- but I had hungered,
had grown ill                      without.

A cold cut cannot survive without the fold

of the fridge.

Or were you the oil and I                     the onion?
Having already been cut,

sliced before being found. Remember?

But we’d been spared                     the tears.
We tasted of a thousand nights
that had never known                     any stars

and then we wanted to taste                     it all.

Do you remember? No,
you don’t.                        I forgot.

We only held hands in my head
in that room I shared

with the one                     I shared the tears with.

Still slicing.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SEA AND SAND

 

Sand slips under foot like memory into mind,
waves wash up along a country lane leading down
into a secreted sea, past a thistle that pricks not;

so much beauty cannot bear a beast.

There is breath in these back fields I recall
on the curve of this spiral game, returning like these tides
that tickle the familiarity that floats on the foam
of the waves I once forged freedom on,

getting far enough out just to find my way back in.

Home is not something you recognise until you return,
like the smell of this sea stretching out to islands
that look in on me, as if trying to find a way to connect,
home is not something you miss until you swim out,

not something you recognise until the tide takes you back in
to that secreted sea, stashed away down a country lane
and you recall

how the sand once felt under foot.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

ADAPTION

 

Things change.

Sunday morning I rise,
though with no rolling stone miracle,
and thread footsteps into the field
where the passage of daisies have taken over
from the pressing soles of sport.
Things change.

Later, in cream pants
and oversized sofa sweater instead of the customary
suited and booted parade affair,
I drop smoked salmon into foamy scrambled eggs
and break fresh baked bread
in the golden glow of the newer kitchen
grown over old land
and think of all the loaves and fishes
that some don’t have to share
or the glow or the land or even a kitchen.
Things change.

Later still,
so much stillness amid all the disturbances,
I shower stale sweat off confined skin
and then snack on corn cakes
instead of Easter eggs
and pull strung-up chicken
from the fridge to stuff its belly with herbs-
to decorate the day with a scent
of something familiar
amid all this change.

Things change.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

IN BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE SLEEPING

 

Packed like yams into dusty carriages
we watch from the safety of our sitting room
where Nana used to sit and iron by the table
and Pop, in the corner, with his pipe,
now just names in prayer and that picture
of their wedding on a wall that still stands
and they, long taken to the sleep.

We sit in all this space while passengers
are packed like sandwiches in tin tubs,
trains swapping stations and germs
on the Underground, over the water
where I used to live, once, when nana
was still ironing and Pop, already sleeping.
I was happy then, I think, I tell myself,
I played happy at times, hilarious
and happy little me in Hampstead,
back stage, behind the spotlight
and considering the distance
I’d covered and the sitting room,
the sofa, the Nana and the Pop.

We watch from that sitting room,
now, with its ceiling since lowered
so the heat stays closer to the body-
the only contact we’ll consider-
she on the sofa and me- single armchair
for single boy returned home as man
and now kept home in quarantine,
in close quarters, two grown-ups
counting the money they cannot spend
and watching lives unfold on the telly
after playing clean-up in the garden
and looking to the trees for carvings
of connections since taken to the sleep.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

KAMSAHAMNIDA

 

In a quiet corner of Korea,
tucked thoughtfully behind a dozen back street twists
designed to derail any uptight tourist, there sits
a pair of us, unbreakable, in the evening light
and smiling, still

In a wooden bar
at the far end of the Seoul where cocktails
came with chicken soup and crisp fruit crumbles
and ears that smiled at my tongue twisted Thank you
in a language I wished was mine, you can subtract time
from the year that followed and find us,
smiling, still

On a stone seat
under the shining shadow of a palace that honoured space
before all else, that wanted to be a unity instead of a history,
still, there sits a pair of us, stealing a moment from time
as if we knew that wishes were sometimes
just sweet dreams

like crisp fruit crumbles or chicken soup to satisfy the soul.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

 

Inspired by a Twitter Poetry Prompt

WATER FLAMES

 

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

BOOK OF MEMORIES

 

I lift a book and watch as dust particles catch air

(dust; tiny particles of waste matter lying on surfaces)

sentences stir, structure returns to life after slumber,
some things come back- having long been forgotten

(memory; the mental ability to retain and to recall
previous experiences)

I turn pages with consideration, parts pressed back
through time, corners folded over where you wanted
to hold onto a moment for longer, retaining words
that came easy but were lost too soon.

My fingers trace the line of narrow spine still holding
onto crinkled paper like crisped skin that once held us
in firm holds to spite time.

If time was held in paper, I’d take it, like the pages
in this book and fold back the parts too piercing
for the memory and duplicate days where we held
minutes as monumental, recalling them later, after,
when dust settles and weeds overgrow the delusion
that we should have been more.

(Delusion; a fixed false belief, resistant to reason)

I lift the book and watch as dust catches air-
particles of spirits that still matter, recalled from pages
that once held them captive before their chapter came
to its conclusion.

(Conclusion; the end or finish of an event or text).

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

ALWAYS THE LEAF

 

I remember you, growing older,
how your skin adapted- as if it had grown in the garden
on the branch of the rhododendron.

Shiny it was, with lines that time had tempered into it,
ever so carefully, like you tempered peace into our panic,
stillness into our hast, serenity into our cacophony.

The leaf, always that single leaf of our lives, never wanting
to be the blush of the flower, just the leaf- always under, in support.

New leaves, like weathered skin, sprout slowly from aging bark,
a soft beauty between the bramble and briar,
between being the wife, the mother and the grandmother.

Today, I tended the garden- mum’s garden now,
your garden once when we were but shoots and you- the whole tree,

and I remembered you

and the slow shuffle of slippered feet and those grand cardigans
that wrapped their comfort across the curve of your back,
that bowed like a branch to reach us all the better.

I recalled your skin that had grown a line for each of us,
a connection to catch hold of, to come back to, those kids we once were
with spotless skins life had yet to mark, always eager to explore

while knowing how to find our way back
and the one who would be waiting on her stool, by the widow,
in the kitchen, in the sunlight, pealing and baking, baking and pealing
to the tune of the radio and the whirl of the twin tub

waiting for one of us to find our way home.

I remember you, as you grew older, today and every other day.

 

All words by Damien B. Donnelly

 

Today is my Grandmother’s 12th anniversary. She now grows in the garden of the hearts of her family.  

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