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.


I climb things, climbed things, out of warm womb,
fresh from first hold into new arms
already breaking, wondering about climbing back up.

I climb things, climbed things, chimneys in a child’s mind
looking for traces of reindeer and reasons
to still believe in faith and family and catching flight.

I climb things, climbed things, out of closets
and their cluttered comforts, out of skins I’d slipped into
to confuse the conscious and the curiosity
of others that could be cruel. Climbing can often cut.

I climb things, climbed things, into beds that didn’t know
any better, mouths that choked and fingers
that felt familiar, for a time, holding me
to ledges of love and lust and the lies in between.

I climb things, climbed things, over waves that didn’t drown
but even the sea comes over you in cycles,
some you win, under others you sink, like losses
and lovers and faith and fate. Sometimes climbs are a descent.

I climb things, I climbed things without ever looking back.

Now, I move forward through backward steps,
through chimneys and out into flight, into folds
and then out further, drawing in trust
and expelling worn waves, blind to coming corners
while studying the method I used to survive the last fall.

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly


Sun shines over sea shell. One holds an echo
and the other; a memory of how it felt
beneath the wave, before it dug up the word


From this angle, I can see the water considering
its return, but I hold the perspective of distance
and the shell; only sand. And that echo of the sun


Sun shines over sea shell and somewhere I recall
how lip trembled at just the thought of your tongue


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




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



Restless morning after night’s twist.
From day we’d split like shadows
Into the swallow of darkness
But dreams are billowy breaths
That toss ships under sheets
Of stormy seas and we- single sleepers
Under the blindness, washing up
And through time and buried thought.

Restless morning after night’s twist.
Lip trembles at dream’s touch
As I reach out to pinpoint position
Upon this shore of subconscious
Where desire is an abhorrent beast
And we, single dreamers, fooled
Into thinking that one night’s hold
Can stir day into a sweet surrendering

Of the isolation drowning on the shore.


All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly



There, by the water’s edge, where kids collect sand in pails as if a piece of plastic can save time, he watches docking ships report their findings- new worlds beyond the old waves he never managed to rise above. I had the urge for going, he recalls saying once, when he could run faster than those kids who cannot yet count time. There, by the edge of all that cannot be measured, old dreams dreamt in younger days float out on a wave that drowns the acrid air while he comes to regard the castles his grandkids have captured in the sinking sand.

The sand is to shore
as the ship is to the sea
dreams rest in between.


 All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly