"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Twenty-Fifth Week

One can be excused
for failing to be ready
when the unimaginable strikes
by their very nature
such calamities
elude most minds.

Yes one can be forgiven
for lacking foresight
in such unhappy situations.

But as we wearily
drag ourselves
through the ruins
we have no excuse.


At the beginning
I hated the discomfort
of my cloth mask
I scowled at the dry skin
wrought by regular scrubbing
I longed for the sounds
of human presence
Looking at this
crumbling world
I now find solace
in the performance of tasks
that at least protect myself
from the virus.


Immunity as you have heard
Has sadly not yet occurred
Our leaders have a plan!
They’re doing all they can!
They’ll just sacrifice more of the herd.


We do not lack
the vocabulary to describe
what is happening to us
what we lack
is the willingness
to admit to ourselves
that those words
those wretched words
truly are the ones that describe
what is happening to us.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between August 29, 2020 and September 4, 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.


How distressed
the unprepared passengers
must have been
as the deck of their unsinkable ship
tilted ominously before
stranding them
in the freezing water.

Though we have seen
the spectacular dramatization
of that tragedy
how many of us
believe our ship to be unsinkable.

Regular advisories
regarding how
“that will not work”
usefully distract
from the evidence that
“this is not working”


My friend
I have not forgotten
that rent has come due
yet again
and that the help
you were promised
has still not come
I wish that I could
provide you true hope
but the best I can offer
is a couch
or not enough money.

I fear next month
I may not be able
to offer as much.


There are none amongst us
who can definitively state
how many more months
will begin with us still
wandering desperately
through the plague lands
though most are certain
that this month
which stretches wretchedly
to the horizon
will not be the last.


Often it is thought
that if the people
are told
just how dire is their situation
they will panic.

At this moment when
there is a deluge
of frightening evidence
the problem is not
that people are panicking
but that they are
remaining so calm.


Though the arbiters
of public attention
may have concluded
that the plague cart’s rattling
is not deserving of concern
it does not make you
if you find yourself unable
to calmly accept
that a thousand of your neighbors
are carried off on that cart
every day.


By surrendering to
the besieging horde
many leaders hope to spare
their people
from the invader’s wrath.

Yet the plague cares not
for white flags
or peace treaties
those who surrender to
the infection
provide their people
with the opposite
of mercy.


According to psychiatrists
grief is a process
characterized by moving
through five stages
with acceptance coming only
at the end
of that bleak journey.

Here in the plague’s land
where mourning never dawns
we have still not moved
past denial.


If history books
are someday written
about this moment
they will wonder
how we could not see
the destination towards which
we were rapidly moving
and if we could see it
why we did not
trigger the emergency brake.


How challenging it is
to hold onto hope
when every day
you are doused
with despair.


Those who have studied for years
can tell you of the history
of past pandemics
can instruct you regarding
how infections spread
can perform the research
to quell the virus.

Yet one need not have studied
to understand
that the halls of the academy
should still remain empty.


Produce paper and pen
think of the names
of those you know
first names and surnames
family friends lovers
coworkers foes
write them down
name after name after name
as many as you can record
look upon the list and know
the plague still claims
more names than this
every day.


Please keep up!
The headline over which
you are obsessing
is from yesterday.
The statistics you stare at
were gathered
two weeks ago.
By the time you catch up
to today’s horrors
it will already be


When you talk to your students
tell them that you know
how the situation is not ideal
remind them that you are human
and you are worried too
sympathize with them over
the gloom
that obscures their futures.

You are not only teaching a subject
you are showing them
how to survive.


Though the situation may
seem desperate
our cultural works have assured us
that the heroes always win
evil is never not vanquished
good eventually carries every day.

How much better prepared
we would be
for this moment
if our cultural works had not
mislead us so.


It is impossible
to find words
that can suitably express
enough sympathy
for those
in our midst who are grieving
for those
who were ripped away from them
by the plague.

That we do not know
the correct words
does not free us from
the responsibility
to grieve with them.



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-Fifth Week

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

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 10, 2020 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Ne'er do wells



Creative Commons License

%d bloggers like this: