Now

By Catherine Deegan

Busily awaiting the blackbirds, black rooks and rainy days:

expecting an epiphany would come with them.  

I had taken my muse to the cave and glued her eyes with sleep,

promising I’d be back in an instant.

Five decades and seven lives she lay there,

I, on the other hand, had a tryst with Hypnos,

and that lasted just as long.

Until, in that dream she told me the wave was on its way,

Hypnos’ brother would not be far behind.

I’m sinking not sleeping, she sighed.

Rattled, I desperately reached for the laptop 

trying to tap her eyes open.

All the birds and all the rain will fly and fall again,

and again.

But we, she beseeched me, must not wait for what is eternal.

We have work to do and crafts to hone,

 and all we have is now. 

Sun-kissed

By Catherine Deegan

The syzygy of betrayal and kiss.

Coins: minted in silver, bathed in blood,

The infamous event of treachery.

Mother of Jesus, mother of Judas:

The syzygy of motherhood and death. 

How could he do it?

###

But we are as innocent as Judas 

Cash: minted in plastic, thrown in the sea.

Unfaithful to all flora and fauna:

mothers of humans are mothers of greed.

The syzygy of motherhood and death

What have we done?

###

Betraying all Earth’s creatures: great and small.

With shards-of-glass hearts and sun- kissed faces

We mute lilting voices and devour trees.

The mother of you, and mother of me:

The syzygy of Mother Earth and death.

What must we do?

Fish Out of Water

By Matt Fitzgerald              

I never knew me then.

If I were a duckling, I would have been shaking off the down:

For I was doubtful and unprepared for life.

But my grandfather would take me by the hand; 

Show me the way of the breadwinner.

This steely man had broken-in many days.

I saw these days on his face and many other faces.

I felt the toughness of his fingers—like dry fat sausages—

Where the creases, the years, fixed him good.

Through the double-wash, he took me to the boat.

A wholesome odour fell off him.

He was long-wooled and slow-speaking and quiet.

There were short-wooled waders too:

Uncles, fathers and sons, nieces and nephews,

Ghosting under the full speculation of the stars.

There were half-caught words drifting in the darkness.

And as we sculled away in a slightly snarling sea, 

I could see him wincing through curling caps.

Shirking off the nacre water,

Shuffling his sailing combover,

Glancing at the seawings above us. 

The gill floats pitched in the sea like speckled dinosaur eggs.

I thought ahead of him and grabbed one.

“Hook it on,” he said. 

We curled back to shore.

The liquid wash of the sea hummed like a hive.

The strain on his face flushed him pink with each draw.

The shore, an eye-train of lamplit watchers,

Moved to meet us and we to them.

The net came alive with tail-flappers;

The beach came alive with movement.

A host of silvery, slivery muscles surfaced in a silent scream.

What if these fish had voices? I thought.

They tinged with galaxies of reds and browns. 

They were coiled at the throat,

Snouting their last breaths—opening, closing, opening. 

My grandfather offered a reassuring smile which I took.

Then he whacked them off the gunwale. 

Their tails didn’t flap any longer.

If I had a tail, it wouldn’t have flapped either.

Then I met him—

The boy I did not know. 

Brought out by the man who always knew me. 

Knew me better than I.  

Lysistrata

By Maria O’Rourke

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 Is a circle of girls round a deflated, red ball.

Lysistrata

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 Is a circle of girls round a deflated, red ball.

Lysistrata

Miss Boland burst the football 

That came over the wall from the boys’ school, 

Stabbing it with a knitting needle while the girls cheered.

You and I were well aware

The line of demarcation was not to be crossed

Though no one could figure out why.

You wanted to throw it back,

But Miss Boland had a precedent to set

Of indelible magnitude.

 Today’s lesson on Lysistrata 

 In a country school yard, 

 

 

Corona – The Thief of Ritual

By Maria O’Rourke

1

Stealthily, it crept up on us.  

At first, far away and disconnected, 

another continent,

distant, like a man on the moon. 

 Then it smashed its way into our days, 

stealing our routines 

and everything we took for granted.  

Our world was ransacked,

 all our daily habits pulled asunder.  

We were left alone, 

violated and bewildered.

2

Who is this imposter?  

How can we have been so vulnerable, 

our guards down, pervious.  

We who know so much and are so hard to fool?  

Scholars and scientists 

bewildered by its treachery, 

wring their hands and plead with us

 to run and hide 

instead of standing up to fight. 

Circle the wagons around the elderly and weak.  

Lie low.

3          

This thief’s guile

is to obscure itself in tenderness;

a touch might kill.  

A hug, a lethal weapon, 

Judas’ poison in a kiss.  

Your very breath a threat, 

may leave me gasping for air, ventilated, 

dependent on the generosity 

of young, fresh-faced nurses

who didn’t anticipate this.  

It creeps around the hospital itself,

Duplicitously.

4

It thrives on fear.  

Loves to see us scuttling, 

gloved and masked,

holed up for our own protection.  

It laughs at the arrogance of leaders 

who underestimate its treachery, 

and watches their expression change to terror.  

They are afraid.  

This thief plunders and pillages, 

with no respect for borders.

5          

And what of the dead?  

Its trophies.  

It steals our right to mourn, 

cancels the cortege, 

leaves the bereaved bereft 

as the solitary corpses 

pile up to be buried without ritual.  

The graveyard is where it stores its loot.  

A shameful misappropriation.

6

But it will not blackmail us.  

No further embezzlement 

will be tolerated.  

We’re not hiding, we’re waiting.  

Like the tree waits for spring, 

calm and certain 

that buds will appear 

and winter will be defeated.  

We will emerge, blinking, into the light, 

and our fortress will be stronger than before, 

tenderness our strength, not our weakness.  

Victims no more.

Ar Coraintín, Leacht Uí Chonchubhair

By Trish Flanagan

There’s a feeling of summer in the March air,

Yet the town of Lahinch is deserted.

The promenade car park is never empty 

In fine spring weather. 

People gather to commemorate the end of

Another damp, dreary winter.

###

But, the seasonal dog-walking signs have been repurposed, 

With bright warnings to socially distance.

The yellow of welcome sunshine 

Has become the colour of fear and danger.

A patrolling garda asks me where I’m from,  

Keen to keep day trippers at bay.

###

No surfers are in sight, 

The sea is strangely calm. 

I pick my way through the narrow walls, 

Respecting the two-metre distance. 

At prom’s end, we form a diagonal to chat.

And Lucy the Jack Russell, circles the four points.

###

Two children play catch with the incoming tide, 

Their squeals breaking the stillness.

A little girl in a fairy dress, appears with her mother.

Meanwhile, up the hill in Moy, 

Robyn and Ella are hosting picnics for their stuffed toys,

And counting ladybirds on my perimeter wall.

###

* Translates as Quarantine, Lahinch.  Leacht Uí Chonchubhair is the old Irish name for Lahinch – Leacht meaning “grave” or “memorial cairn”. Uí Chonchubhair is the Irish for O’Connor.