"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Twenty-Third Week

You need not be
a sagacious prophet
wizened in interpreting
the motions of the heavens
in order to understand
that it is an ill omen
for a week to being
with the news that
the somber milestone of
one hundred seventy thousand
plague deaths
has now been passed.


The scientists assure us
that the crises
in which we are enveloped
shall not rise to the level
of causing human extinction.

Alas such promises provide
rather little comfort
to those suffering through
those crises.


In my kitchen
a fly has become
sympathetically I watch
as it batters itself
against the closed window
I too
am unhappily trapped




Please halt.

Even a short span
of seconds will suffice.

That there shall be no
official moment of mourning
for the plague’s
victim’s exceeding
one hundred and seventy
does not mean that you should
let the occasion
go unacknowledged.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between August 15, 2020 and August 21, 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.


With a drink containing
equal parts hope and cynicism
I watched
as speaker after speaker
promise better times ahead.

Seated beside me
calmly viewing the broadcast
the plague
unhelpfully commented
“November is a long way off.”


There is a famous play
in which two men
wait and
wait and
wait and
wait for someone
who never arrives.

A theater director
could stage an
updated version
in which the two men
wait and
wait and
wait for
pandemic relief.


Widely it is understood
that those who cannot
offer a better future
instead pledge a return
to a romanticized past
yet in this moment
a hearkening back to
that happy land called
is as fantastical a promise
as an oath to return
to the glistening walls
of Atlantis.


As you listen
tot he inspiring words
rallying your hope
bolstering your resolve
do not forget those
who cannot hear
the inspiring words
over the sounds
of their empty bellies.


Though it is largely
to say that the world
is on fire
one should not forget
that in many places
the devouring flames
are too literal.

That you are feeling
simply means that you
are paying attention.

Take from this knowledge
whatever small comfort
you can.


Search as you might
for any signs
in which to place hope
there are times
when it is nearly impossible
to suppress the belief
that the world
is just getting worse.


That the plague
was soundly defeated
in so many lands
is proof that this foe
(terrifying though it may be)
is hardly invincible.

That the plague
has been declared victorious
in our wretched land
is not a result of its might
but of our leaders
decision to surrender.


Repetition breeds boredom
the same facts over and over
do not turn heads
but generate yawns
we heard the death count
last week
why do we need to be reminded
of it today?

my tired friend
the death count
is still rising.


My relatives in Toronto
are eating at restaurants
My friends in Wuhan
are attending concerts
My colleagues in Wellington
are returning to school
Here in the plague’s land
I am diligently washing
my cloth mask.


You hopes
for the fall
must be driven
into exile.

in every season
is always
in style.


Do not blame the young
for longing for the life
of which they have been deprived
it is not their selfishness
that has unleashed this plague.

Have patience for the young
and their longing for life
for they know
that they shall inherit
the burnt ruins
created by their elders.


Do not accuse me
of ignoring
the misshapen clouds of our day
some of these rain ash
some bring ruinous winds
some of these produce tears
some darken in the distance
beneath their shadows I writhe.

But as you look at the gray sky
do not forget
the plague
still stalks the ground.


Delude yourself not
with desperate cries
of “he can’t do that”
devote yourself instead
to considering precisely
what it is that you can do.


If our civilization is to fall
blame will not rest
on barbarian hordes
invading from without
but due to
the barbaric qualities
that have steadily
conquered us from within.


When we felt the plague’s breath
we turned from
the changing climate.

When the carnival barker threatened
we turned from
the raging pandemic.

When fires consumed the horizon
we turned from
the political breakdown.

ever turning
our nausea grows
as does our peril.



Plague Poems…the next week

Plague Poems…the previous week

Plague Poems…the first week

Plague Poems…the full list

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 Twenty-Third Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Twenty-Second Week | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Twenty-Fourth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2020 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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