Sitting by gas fires
having gas craic
where once there were
open fires, tended fires,
were once the ceilings rose higher
and the walls seemed wider
as if now weighed down
with habits and history,
tales burn bright
like turf taking flight,
blazing through time,
a string of stories
flickering fine
in the evening’s
amber light of memory,
moments made and measured
in simpler ways,
in simpler days,
in a sleepy town,
a country town
were family folded in
between fields to farm
and food to find,
stories staring with
‘Mammy warned us,
if Mammy found out,
Mammy would kill us,
Mammy, give him a clout!’

Reach out, listener;
catch the smoke
about to smother
the light from
what happened
long ago
on streets
and faces
that time has now outgrown.

See them
and lighter
and giddy on laughter
(no laughter at that table, said Nana)
your uncle grabbed a cake once
when they weren’t looking,
when they were no taller
than an oven,
shared it with brother
and off ran the boys
shaking, see them shaking
the streets with childhood
(before they knew it would outrun them)
‘Don’t look back,
don’t tell the mammy,
let’s savour the flavour
and not the smack!’

See the girls
now women,
now ladies
(so they say)
hiding posh frocks
in thorny bushes,
changing down lanes
out of sight
from mothers
and then
in shorter skirts
they stick thumbs out
to crowded cars
who’ll ferry fairer girls
to band-hall dances,
the brothers
hiding in ditches
till cars stop for pretty legs
but find petty boys
wedging security
between boys with cars
and the girls they’d stopped for.

Country cottages
filling up fast,
priests teaching
never to abstain,
never to complain,
though never explained
how to turn water into wine
to stop the babies whines
and every young mother
forgets what it was
not to be pregnant,
not to be planing,
not to be pushing,
pushing the older kids
into corner beds,
kitchen beds,
and beds under beds.

See them
in this house,
in a time before this house
was a modern home,
when water was outside
and the buckets
carried inside
to the bedside
at night time
for midnight toilet time.
Check the bucket
before your business
brothers missing
his socks again
and the other one
laughing neath the blanket.

Look again, look back
to the past now parting,
now pealing from walls
like wallpaper
that clung on too long
to linger longer
(don’t pull; it will come to you)
they’re climbing through windows
cause the open door
has found its closure
after curfew.
See him
silly boy,
comical brother,
untypical twin,
he’s got the window down
and the foot almost in,
another step
and he breaks the bed
his brother’s asleep in!
Hear them laughing;
the bed is broken
and Brian thinks he’s dying
but his brother’s already snoring.

See them
burning through the flames
of time,
twisting back,
sneaking Daddy
out the front door
after dinner
for drinks
in the town
while Mammy
is busy with
the bacon
and the bread.
See them
through the clothes
in the bushes
and the beds
almost breaking
and the bucket overflowing
and the cakes off running
through streets
still standing,
still shining a light
on the laughter
of children
that once
rang out
that once,

once, upon a time…

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on SoundCloud:




  1. Paula Antonello Moore

    Such phenomenal imagery! Nicely done. I wanted to ask you something, Dami: how do you post blogs that arrive to your followers in email w a “to read more…” line at the end of it instead of the email including the entire post? Did you actively create the post to offer only a tease in the email forcing your followers to click to go to your actual blog page? Or is it by chance this happens?

    1. deuxiemepeau

      Thanks Paula! Actually I had no idea! I thought people were emailed the whole thing. That’s annoying! I will look at my settings but I didn’t select anything in particular when I set it all up! I will get back to you on that one! Enjoy that weekend

  2. Stefanie Neumann

    “[…] and the walls seemed wider
    as if now weighed down
    with habits and history […]”

    How aptly stated. Tradition is a beautiful thing if chosen by free will and not imposed on us like ties in a prison.
    Personally I prefer a craic in front of an “open, tended fire” – and what a beautiful analogy you chose, here!
    Much love,

    1. deuxiemepeau

      I think my family have the world craic as their family motto! They are miraculous and hilarious all at once! When they get together the stories flow and the tears of laughter stream! They know how to enjoy life and it’s infectious! I do feel fortunate indeed!!

      1. Stefanie Neumann

        This sounds like happy times!
        (And very Irish in the best sense, I might add…)
        What a great Motto. Someone should create a coat of arms for this!

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