Corona – The Thief of Ritual

By Maria O’Rourke


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.


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.


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,



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.


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.


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.