Bás in Éireann. A poem by Nessa O’Mahony

Easter 2020

From her social distance
my mother points
to a six-inch cardboard tube
she found in a bookcase
in those long hours of quarantine.

‘I can’t open it,’ she says,
yet her face tells me she has,
has already read the messages
on this dead sea scroll
from the people we were, once.

We could still congregate then,
made jokes, dashed down
our thoughts on the parchment
the Government gave us
with the Millennium Candle.

My brother wrote ‘Bás in Éireann.’
Not knowing he’d take him
at his word a decade later,
my father relied on his old favourite:
‘Go mbeirimíd beo’ .

When he died alone,
we were still sleeping.
No screen divided us,
no latex glove held his hand
on our behalf.

Is any one death
better than another?
These days
we are careful
what we wish for.


Nessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin and lives there. She is the recipient of three literature bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland, the most recent being in 2018. She has published five books of poetry – Bar Talk, (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005), In Sight of Home (2009) and Her Father’s Daughter (2014). The Hollow Woman on the Island was published by Salmon Poetry in May 2019. Details of her latest poetry collection, The Hollow Woman on the Island, can be found here.

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