"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Eighteenth Week

A hallmark of a
civilized society
(or so we were told)
is that it sends its young
to the classroom
not to the sacrificial altar.

How then to understand
our civilized society
which turns the classroom
into a sacrificial altar?


Stop hoping that
this year will improve
such fantasizing will
only result in
crushing disappointment
if you must attached hope
to a year
allow yourself to hope
the pandemic will have ended
in twenty twenty two.

Though even that hope
may lead to


They say the soldiers
who were sent off to fight
in the Great War
believed that they would
be home by Christmas.

How tragically naive
they were.

They say the people
who locked down
when the plague came
believed they would
be mask free by April.

How tragically naive
we were.


Fighting the plague?
our leaders
don’t feel that’s

my friends
is always
in style.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between July 11, 2020 and July 17, 2020.

They were initially posted online on Twitter at @plaguepoems

Throughout the duration of this crisis new poems will be posted regularly at that Twitter account, they will then be collected and reposted here in weekly increments.


Even now
I refuse to believe
that people are bad
though I acknowledge
that too many people
struggle to be good
when doing so would
be a slight inconvenience.


How difficult it is
to be horrified by
the plague
setting a new record
when it is known that
the plague
shall just break that new record


In moments when great thinkers
are needed most
those who like to believe
that they are great thinkers
have an unfortunate tendency
to think only of themselves.


Let us not be hyperbolic
(the news is wretched enough
there is no need to exaggerate)
we do not live in a failed state
we live in a failing state.

If we were already living
in a failed state
we would have resigned ourselves
to the knowledge that our situation
will get worse.


When the plague first arrived
you could be forgiven
for not knowing how
small decisions
could have disastrous consequences
but at this late hour
there is no longer an excuse
for such ignorance.


Now is not the time
for fantasizing
about what you will do
when this is all over.

Now is the time
for planning
about what you will do
when things get worse.


A wise man once said
“It is only for
the sake
of those without hope
that hope
is given to us.”

Clad in hopelessness
I struggle
to find comfort
in those words.


While lecturing my students
I carefully explained
that in the terminology of scholars
there is a difference between
an emergency
a disaster
and a catastrophe.

When a student asked
“is the pandemic
a catastrophe?”
I had to restrain myself
from saying
“it is something worse.”


As the experts register
their growing concern
an anxious public yearns
for guidance.

“Wear a mask”
a bureaucrat advises.

“Avoid crowded places”
suggests a doctor.

“Shut everything down”
cries an epidemiologist.

“Don’t worry
just ignore me”
councils the plague.


You can wear
so you won’t hear
the cries of woe.

You can stuff
your nose
so you won’t hear
the funeral pyres.

You can tie on
a blindfold
so you won’t see
the terrible news.

the cries of woe
the funeral pyres
the terrible news
does not stop them.


I fully recognize
(of course)
that you will not
see these words
but I know that
your theater must
now be shuttered
the stage empty
the seats vacant
your booth dark.

I hope you are safe
and in good health
but I fully recognize
(of course)
that you will not
see these words.


In ancient Rome
(it is said)
the rulers distracted
the public
from the looming collapse
by providing them
with bread and circuses.

If our leaders insist on
subjecting us
to circuses
they could at least
provide us with bread.


Summer travel plans have been
indefinitely canceled due to
the plague
yet it is not the case that now
we are going nowhere
to the contrary
we are well on our way
to the wasteland.


I should have chosen
my words
with greater care.

When I said that I
would die
for my students
I did not mean it


“Every day it becomes
increasingly difficult”
(according to
my pessimistic friend)
“to avoid the conclusion
that our society
is collapsing.”

the plague interrupts,
“but don’t forget
about me!”

“Or me,”
adds the
changing climate.


The thin ice
atop which
our civilization sits
has been melting.

The water seeps
through the cracks
soaking our feet in icy liquid
we are distracted
from the cold
by the heat from
the bonfire
onto which our leaders
pour gas.

The blaze
cannot be good
for the ice.



Plague Poems…the next week

Plague Poems…the previous week

Plague Poems – The First Week

About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

2 comments on “Plague Poems – The Eighteenth Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Seventeenth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Nineteenth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2020 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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