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sometimes you must
break the rules
go counterclockwise
turn things upside down–
they found power
walking widdershins
around the block
wearing their clothes
inside out
chanting prayers backwards
tying knots in the wind
to tangle tongues
untying knots
to loosen them
drawing lines in ash or salt
no hungry ghost could pass–

without their fabled powers
we have scant chance
to ward contagion
and keep safe–
our clumsy efforts
have no magic strength–
reluctant, too little and too late
the enemy already here
inside the gate


Mary C. McCarthy is a writer who spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many print and online journals and anthologies, including Third Wednesday, The Ekphrastic Review, and Earth’s Daughters. She has been a Pushcart nominee and has an electronic chapbook available as a free download from Praxis magazine.

© 2020, Mary C. McCarthy

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