Poems for Holy Week | Cassandra Voices

Poems for Holy Week


Poetry editor Edward Clarke selects poems from Paul Curran, Billy O Hanluain, Haley Hodges Schmid, Ned Denny and his own work to mark Holy Week.


A corona Sonnet

With no less haste than the crisis deserves,

All faces one mask of consternation,

We’ve learnt, through conversing in spikes and curves,

This virus respects no race or nation.

Virgil could not have foreseen the Tiber

Would fill so fast with the fallen of Rome,

Hospitals built with sinew and fibre,

Children in hiding, on their own, at home.

His toll’s still rising, but Death, if he could,

Would make no attempt to keep numbers down;

Warm April predicates wearing no hood,

His scythe keenly sharpened shines like his crown.

Unfasten quick this dead pathogen’s trick

Lest lists of the late outnumber the quick. 

April 4th, 2020

Paul Curran was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1975. He holds a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a Masters Degree from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has worked widely as a professional actor. His Only Sonnet loosely follows the pattern of the seasons, comprised of 100+ ‘alternative’ sonnets; Repeat Fees and its 80 sonnets and longer poems was published in July 2017.


Stock Pile On Hope

Walk down the bare,
trembling aisles of your
self. Everything dispensible
is now after its Best Before.
Pass by the Two for One indulgences
of fear and doubt. Shelves stripped
of the superfluous. The tattered packaging
of novelties that amused us
fade behind their
spent Use By dates. Remembered now
as infatuations bought to distract us.
Is it time to close shop?
Turn out the lights?
Time for the din and dirge of shutters?
We are open twenty four hours
and we must never close.
No matter the Feast Day.
The Plague or The Hour.
Turn toward that aisle within,
so often passed in the hurry
of what seemed to matter
there you will find the plenty that
always was and will be.
Load your cart, fill your bags,
weigh your trolley down.
Stock pile on hope!

Billy O Hanluain works as a language teacher in Dublin. His work has appeared in The Village and The Passage Between. He frequently reads at open mic nights across the city and has contributed to RTE’S Arts Tonight and Arena. He is a DJ with a special passion for Jazz. He lives in Kimmage, Dublin.

The Ape in the Meme

Like those who crouch in a bird-catcher’s hide,
_             He has put up and part-designed
A shiny means of destruction online,
Whose checkout page is set and open wide
_             As all blind graves must look for business.
And so he means to capture browsers and listeners
_                            Like birds in a wicker cage:
That ape who ate his stockpile in the meme,
_                                           Or famous adage,
Who licks his unclean lips and can’t be seen.

He has become fat and sleek, yeah, he’s smoothed
_             Out all anxieties we had
About his bad business: he prospers at
The expense of all of us who are sweet-toothed.
_             A devastating and wondrous thing
Is committed in our land and we all sing
_                            Blindly its praises. No prophet
Even prophesises and almost every poet,
_                                           To no one’s profit,
Tells tales of a life, but not as you’d know it.

What will be the end of it? Just now,
_             At the limits of the eye, just off
The shore of the ear, that ancient boundary of
The world, the world can’t pass, no matter how
_             Hard it smashes its waves into it,
Or coaxes endlessly: just there, I intuit
_                            You are rowed out with your answer,
And stand before the multitude on a sea
_                                           Of radiant stanzas
For those with eyes to hear and ears to see.


Edward Clarke’s latest collection of poems, A Book of Psalms, has just been published by Paraclete Press. He is poetry editor of Cassandra Voices.


‘See now the bewildered Christ’

See now the bewildered Christ
In the empty streets of Jerusalem;
The surefooted clip clop of donkey and colt
Accentuated by this brimming vacancy,
By this our iron-held breath.
We are inside reading the news;
We are stacked in buildings, racked
With urban exodus and suddenly beset
By the fragrance of country miles.
Need bares her teeth at need—
No hosanna can emerge, no palm
Softens the anxious cobblestones.
Christ passes unhailed through our midst
With eyes downcast for love.


Haley Hodges Schmid came from her native America to England in 2017 to pursue introductory theological study at the University of Oxford’s Wycliffe Hall. A musician by training, she is drawn to the intersection of theology and the arts and eager to explore themes like redemption, joy, and sacredness in her writing


Iron Age

When jail shines like a blue marble in space
and masks of fear eat into the face
and new strains of deceit are going around
and the dead demand to be more tightly bound
and they scramble nine jets at the sight of a dove
and drive in the nails yet call it love
and cameras watch live Eden’s knoll
and separation is the protocol
and the long war wears the look of peace
and Medusa stares from a million TVs
and the cure is seeded with wasp-eyed death
and all I can trust is my own wise breath
and misinformation’s the name for the Word
and they tell the biggest lies this chained world’s heard
and commit the greatest fraud hell’s ever seen
and say the withered tree is green

when a dragon is about to be crowned
and streets are empty save for the drowned
and the wolf has the lamb’s best interest at heart
and to stay alive you stay apart
and an hourly dose of dread sets the tone
and the sun itself’s been turned to stone
and the hungry ghost of the moon descends
and the axle of the heavens bends
and the stars disappear through chinks in a rock
and the hands go haywire on every clock
and a black horse rides upon manback
and you still think you’re not under attack
and they turn the key to “keep us safe” from the Lord
and at certain times we all applaud
and death is getting desperate and iron old

a bird will sing dawn wield your gold


Ned Dennys collection Unearthly Toys was awarded the 2019 Seamus Heaney Prize. B (After Dante), a version of the Divine Comedy, will be published by Carcanet this autumn.


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