There are no other cars there as I pull up to
The foot of the mountain at nine one morning
In the early days of the strange new times.
Happily escaping the novel fear of seeing other
Humans, I walk the rocky path.
I stop to read the words on the sign half way up – like a
Tourist, I have time now – and learn that this place is called
“The sacred summit”. How many times have I climbed without
Knowing (or caring), looking down at my feet or inside my head,
In a rush to get back to the ‘real’ business of the day?
The birds sing loudly, nearly too loud, triumphant,
I don’t see them and there are no trees around;
They must be in the heather that blankets the
Mountain or maybe in the forest below, their
Voices amplified by this new silence.
Do they wonder – the birds I mean – where we have gone?
The high walking quadrupeds with the soft faces and
Colourful coats they normally see on this land, chirping to each other
Or dogs, do they think of us at all – with sadness or relief or love? –
Or do they just sing, as always, celebrating this day, this place, this heather?
Things are on their head, truly trina cheile: A feeling of dread
Now, on seeing another person coming toward us on the
Horizon, our scarves inched up over our noses (but does this even
Work? Sources disagree). When greeting others out walking we try to
Make our voices sound warm and open behind our masks: a schizoid
Endeavour. On meeting a friend outside who we know will want to talk,
We panic. So we stay at home and talk instead on apps and keypads.
Daffodils spill out of unpeopled parks (craving attention?). Hands
Chapped and bleeding are washed thirty times a day and used as
Little as possible. Doors are opened with coated elbows. We refresh
The website with bated breath, our stomachs churn all day until evening
As we wait for “the numbers”: to hear what havoc has been wreaked –
And to how many souls – in our country and abroad, a Saturday
Night Lottery programme turned grotesquely on its head.
Is this “new normal” or purgatory, sending us mad or returning us to sanity?
Are we losing touch or reclaiming connection? In the early days I could climb
The mountain. Now, in the later days, waiting for the “surge”, I can only
Look across at it from my two kilometre radial path. I walk shortly after
Sunrise to meet as few others as possible. Returning home from this daily
Ritual, I know things I did not before: the fear in the sunny voices of the ones
That pass me; the precious and equal weight of each and every life; and this:
We’ll wait a few more days.
Sarah Murphy is a writer, researcher and lecturer. She is from Dublin and now lives in Sligo. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2019 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition and was awarded third place in the County Roscommon County Library Competition 2018. Her poetry has been published in The Cormorant journal.