"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Twenty-Fourth Week

This morning
my love left me
dressed formally
clutching old keys
bag nervously in hand
returning to the campus
where their classroom
of masked pupils awaits.

This evening
my love will return to me
I pray that when
they embrace me tonight
that they will not
be infected.


On the floors
of the supermarket
the signs asking shoppers
to be conscientious
“this aisle is one way”
“keep six feet apart”
how comforting
is this sight
a reminder of the days
when we still believed
we would come together
to defeat the virus.


We have all heard
the legend
of how Nero fiddled
while Rome
was consumed by flames
but many Romans
surely joined his orchestra
eagerly playing their parts
even as Nero called the tune.

How many of our neighbors
sit merrily
in the orchestra today
how very many.


At first we could speak
of nothing
but this unwelcome guest
eating off our plates
jostling us in our sleep
interrupting our talk
few long for the days
when we could speak
of nothing
but this unwelcome guest.

Having grown accustomed
to its presence
of it
we now say nothing.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between August 22, 2020 and August 28, 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.


For weeks
we sustained ourselves
on the promise
that help was on the way
smaller meals were eaten
late fees were accured
these sacrifices of
temporary ascetism
would not last much longer.

Every day
as our resources falter
it grows harder to believe
that help will come.


That other thing
is the virus
some different flaw
is the true infection
The crimes of history
are the fatal disease.

We find ourselves
by so much
by so very much
that we risk forgetting
the enduring presence
of the literal pandemic.


After the plague arrived
they responsibly cancelled
their performance.

Thinking the plague
would abate
they happily rescheduled
only to cancel
as the plague surged.

Today they have announced
a new date
for early next year
surely they know
they will need
to cancel this too.


We already know
how this chapter will end
yet we continue
turning page after page
resolute in our belief
that by the time we reach
the final paragraph
the author will
steal into our home
to change this tragedy
into a comedy
so we turn the pages
instead of picking up the pen.


Plagued though I am
with concern
for the enduring pandemic
increasingly I find myself
succumbing to the belief
that this wretched virus
may not be
the gravest threat
clawing at our throats.


As the catastrophic winds
grasp at the shore
my hands being to shake
with such frantic power
that I can barely scrub
the infectious threat
from my fingers.

“Focus on other things for now”
the plague woefully advises
“I will still be here
after the hurricane dissipates.”


I know
that there are emotions
other than
sorrow and rage
but no matter how
deeply I search my memory
I cannot recall
when last I felt something
other than
sorrow and rage.


The old world
is no more
at this very second
(as you read these words)
the new world
is coming into being
what remains unclear
is whether it will be
a better world
or something much worse.


Though I have
poured over the news
and carefully studied history
I cannot disabuse myself
of the childish belief
that this world
could be better than it is
if only we truly tried.


There must be a word
for a moment
in which new disasters arrive
while the old disasters continue
terms such as
and collapse
feel tragically insufficeint
for this moment
in which new disasters arrive
while the old disasters continue.


Historians remind us
at every bleak opportunity
that a failure to learn
from the past
ensures that what has
happened before
will happen again.

What often goes forgotten
when this glum claim is voiced
is that many in your midst
are quite eager
to see history repeat itself.


I know you are tired
you feel you have
run out of tears
the mountain of catastrophes
has blocked even the memory
of the sun
leaving you to shiver with despair.

Yes, I know it is too much
but I must inform you
the plague’s victims
now exceed
one hundred and eighty thousand.


By the time the flames
have crawled up the walls
consuming the bookshelves
scorching the furniture
filling your nostrils with smoke
you have passed the point
at which yelling “fire!”
is a sufficient response
to your dreadful peril.


is just a term
to describe
that fleeting moment
between tunnels.


My grandfather
escaped the darkest times
bundled onto a ship
he was sent off
before he could be
trapped in a cattle car.

Though the darkest times
were behind him
he warned me
that those times
could return.

I am thankful
he is not alive to see
that he was right.


We have been taught
to put our faith
in the fabled light
at tunnel’s end
but perhaps instead
that light
belongs to the warning lamp
we passed
before plunging
into the abyss.

The light is not
that towards which
we crawl
but that which grows dimmer
as we fall
into the unknown.



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

3 comments on “Plague Poems – The Twenty-Fourth Week

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

  2. Christina Schmidt, MA
    September 3, 2020

    This is brilliant, thank you for sharing!

  3. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Twenty-Fifth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2020 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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