Come Imbolc / we’ve left the gate on the latch / waiting

Come Imbolc / turn us over and all else / out
We’ve left out straw to ignite ashes into action
Into obliteration / cleanse this dust / this despair

Come Imbolc / empty us / our bellies lie open
Eager to be burped / belched / unburdened
We have eaten our own fears and grown fat

Come Imbolc / there’s an empty bed / for later / after
And the gate is off the latch / has long been off
while we waited and the door has long creaked of welcome

Winter stayed too long / we grew weak / under its weight
Under all this waiting / swallowed all we did not want to see

Come Imbolc, carve the fear from the tissue we’ve choked on
That festered in these bellies / come bring it out / unbirth it

Tomorrow we will light a candle / burn the memory
and the ash / the ash will turn to notes as we sing of your return.

Imbolc is the festival celebrating the beginning of Spring and I wrote this poem based on a Poetry Prompt from Catherine Ann Cullen, poet in Residence at Poetry Ireland via Twitter on St. Brigid’s Day which was the 1st February 2021

I read this poem on last weekend’s episode of Eat the Storms, the Poetry Podcast…

Between the Sea and the Stars, There are Bright Lights

For Rhona Greene, Ankh Spice and Matthew M C Smith

Darker days catch brighter lights,
Sitting by bay-windows enriched with hope

Into dreams.
I close my eyes and we ride bikes
Where the sea sways to the beat of the shore,

We are Sandycove and silly,
We slip south; the sand now snow, a soft shuffle
Over waves now carpets of magic, laughing

At the drunkenness of things.
There is more between here and there, stranger
And strength, light and dark, hope

And the hand you’ve held out.

Giddy on gay, we set down
Where the sea’s swept sand into calcite crystals;
Fire flames under water’s edge reflecting
Where we’ll dance and catch fire before,
We too, expire into the sparkle
Of a star.

Everything is a cycle; the sea, the sand,
These shores, this journey, these holds, our hands
Slipping in and out, our eyes that watch this dream turn;

In the end, it is a kiss goodbye
To ignite a new beginning.

From a dune, that holds the knowledge
The day has not yet come to share,
A goat raises his head and we, to him,

This is his shore
And we, now welcome guests.

In the space between us, already lined
With a billion steps of all that flamed before,
Rests the weight of all it took
To get here and the hope
Of all we have yet to unearth.

We are strangers that have known each other
Longer than the fires that will burn
Through our own place, our shared space,
Our already written fate.

We supper on tangerines
And the soft swallow of pink rose petals
That were once something else
And drink incorrigibly

Of this bubbling friendship that dances
On our tongues before we take our leave
While not completely parting.

The sea is now the sky
On the ever-forwarding spiral into what will be,
Almost home, we throw kisses down
to the last land before the air sets us down again
to Earth,
An ancient land where a voice whispers words
Into a bough that will bend forever
With blossom.

Darker days
But there is light in the palms
Of hands, hooves, voices rising up from under cloud,
under land, under time, deep,

Lights that build bridges to lives

And in each life
A house with an open door and a fire,

We set down, finally
Upon the shore, Sandycove’s caress,
And Joyce whispering of ghosts
Still tending to the tower;

What is written can never truly expire.

Our bikes await,
Round wheels ready for the rest
Of the journey, those cycles

As the waves return to tickle our toes
With a scent we now know
While the snow falls,
Slow and suddenly
So rich.


Things move slowly here like the browning
of a leaf, like the lichen along the bark
that comes on like considered kisses
to comfort the cold and some things just stick

like the tossed blue bag the wind has wound
around the briar, like the damp within the bricks
of those choked up cottages not even demand
will come to disturb. Things move slowly here

like the hold old hearts still have on the names
of bodies long since buried whose memory
will not take to the dust. Things move slowly here

except for the traffic that never stops as if tires
are never tired, as if their tracks never leave a mark
on the lane, on the landscape, on the air
and some things just sink

like concrete that sweeps on and over like the tide,
as if the soil was the shore, as if nature
was a battle to be won and the church bell tolls

while slabs rise in graveyards like tower blocks
and the fields are only fertile for 2-story foundations
and the trees pulled and replaced with plastic tables
and chairs that won’t wilt in any weather.

Change can be ambiguous, like security, like stability,
like continuity, like humanity, unlike concrete.

Some things are what they are- a sea, a sky, a place, a price.

Pastoral is a commodity that has passed. Some things move
slowly while other things…

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly



Clouds congregate under summer skies, standing towers,
still, waiting for Napoleon’s rise. Up close, only echoes
of history hit the hollowing rock below- coming in
to slip out with more, in search of possession on another shore.

There are footprints on the beach- horses hooves
whose metal shoes now feel the rust of the sea’s salt.
Up close, the scent of his wet coat is carried on the current
like a boat that twists and turns until it hits someone, out of sight,
who wonders why the wind carries on it the might of something wild.

I watch from the seat of a bike, wondering why I fear the water
and if I will end up as a ghost to the island that watches me
from every cut of this curious coast. Up close, my heart begins to trot,
in anticipation of movement, of having undone the knot, seeking out
new scents, climbing old towers where well-sighted soldiers
where once posted, spreading my footprints along the edge
of the tide before the waves wash them far and wide.

Black horse dances where windows once watched for war.
                      After falling, you can only surrender to beauty.


All words and photos by Damien B. Donnelly



9 is not yet known to this Sunday morning
but already I’m playing catch up with the dawn
in a once foreign field now renamed home,
running after breaths and age that is unobtainable
like caressing clouds or surviving on the sap of stems
where needles immerse nettles in a loneliness
we have come now to understand
as we make small steps out of the reeds of isolation.

There will be a telling later, after, in how we survived
the conservation in place of consumerization.

Will we continue running to catch up, later, after,
with all we lost or come out to shed the macho master
of the world masquerade and realise we’re all nettles
standing in the shadows of much brighter flowers,
our skins stabbed with too many stings
to truly get close to the truth of who we could be.


All words and photos by Damien B. Donnelly



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,
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




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

JPEG image 175


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



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



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

JPEG image 177


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



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



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


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




Dreams are big black cats.

There are ghouls that come in waves,
the Sea- a grey sweet mother
snot green, scrotum tightening,
come and look, smell-

wax and rosewood
in the distance, death has not yet departed.

Waves rise along rock,
bile is collected in china plate.

The sea is grey, the china white, bile green,
he is black but won’t go yet to grey

though he did not come to knee.

On a bed death has already delivered
mother kicks buttercups off the quilt.

Beastly is death and it’s deliverance
and worse, when it will not take its leave.

There are ghouls sweeping in over the sea,
cruel chewers of corpses

while dead Dignam has yet to be dug down.

Black cats are big in dreams.

JPEG image 165

JPEG image 175

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

Bloomsday 16th June



I read in the paper this morning
that we were hugged.
That sometimes a nun cried
when fledgling flew from her fold-
a sister of scripture sobbing for a son
she would never call her own.
We were just play toys
far from the playground-
touches temporary
while waiting to be wanted.

I read in that paper this morning
that sometimes someone sang to us-
before we knew what a song was
or what sadness meant
or how tears come not only in sorrow,
new born babies already waiting
on new names in the odd arms
of a caped collection of sacred ladies
singing us songs of selection.


All words by Damien B Donnelly