"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Twenty-Seventh Week

The clearer it becomes
that the future
for which I had always prepared
has vanished
the more confused I am
by the ways in which
day after day
I continue to behave as if
that future
is still the one that awaits me.


“What is wrong?”
asks my great-aunt
telephoning me from
a different country.

so as not to worry her
I explain my anxieties
the uncertainty of my
employment status
the dwindling amount
in my savings.

“No no”
she interrupts
“What is wrong
with your country?”


My head aches
my chest is tight
my breathing is ragged
my nights are sleepless
my limbs are sore
every day
for more than six months.

I do not carry the plague
but oh how I am plagued.


We always think we have
more time
the hourglass’s top
runs low for others
but never for us
another hour
can be added to the clock
another month
will be inserted into the calendar
another year
somehow slotted into the decade
we always think we have
more time.

Even now.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between September 12, 2020 and September 18, 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.


If you still
had the ability to find
perhaps you would laugh
at how this collapse
is occurring int he season
known as the fall.

An obvious punchline
blandly predictable
but still worth
a sad chuckle.


We suffer now
the consequences
of our failure to use
the summer to prepare
for the fall.

Soon we will suffer
the consequences
of our failure to use
the fall to prepare
for the winter.

Six months of suffering
and still
we have not learned.


Standing before the sink
I began to sing
that childish song
to help me keep time
as I scrubbed my hands
for the appropriate duration.

It has been months since last
I bothered to sing
and even longer since
last I believed
that washing my hands
was enough
to ward off the plague.


That you believe
you have prepared yourself
for the moment
when things will get worse
does not mean that you
will be ready
when that time comes.


When you are familiar
with religious prophecies
it is dangerously easy
to find portents all around you
yet you need not believe in
the apocalyptic Four Horsemen
to feel as though
you are hearing
the sound of hoofs
growing ever closer.


By now it has happened
so many times
for so many days
for so many weeks
it scarcely garners comment
we already know
(what more can we do?)
the reminder only deepens
our hopelessness.

But remember
more than a thousand
of your neighbors
were claimed by the plague


Years spent consuming
fictional tales
of cities destroyed by storms
of states brought low by disease
of societies unable to endure
has not prepared us
for these days
it has only made these horrors
feel blandly familiar.


I am aware
that certainty is preferable
clear guidance reassures
the speaker and listener
a plotted course can be
comfortably followed
even by those with doubts.

How I wish
it was otherwise
but my only certainty is that
I do not know what to do
though I know
I must do something.


As a child
learning history
I could not understand
how these tragedies
could have happened.

Did people not see
where they
were heading?

How could they not
act before
their fates were sealed?

As an adult
living history
I now understand.


According to my friends
who live in different lands
the rest of the world is
watching us
quietly judging us
with mournful anxiety.

The oddly hued sun
distorted int he hazy sky
also seems to be
watching us
quietly judging us
with mournful anxiety.


Time consuming and discomforting
though it may be
it is a far wiser choice
to study history
than to move through the world
that choosing to ignore
the parts of history you dislike
will protect you from
their consequences.


Had you studied
you would know
that there is no reason
to be frightened
of those
who teach history.

Though had you studied
you would know
there is ample reason
to be frightened
of those
who would seek
to frighten you away
from the teachers of history.


You who are haunted
by the memory
of burning books
must ceaselessly remember
not only that
books were burned
but that as the flames
turned the pages to ash
people cheered.


Should we someday emerge
from the darkness
historians will write of it
in the hopes that
from our sufferings
others may learn.

Know that
when such a day comes
(if such a day comes)
there will still be some
demanding that the historians
be silenced.


When we were still young
we could not believe
that the plague would claim
two hundred thousand
of our neighbors.

Such horrors
such tragedies
happened “over there”
never in our midst.

Our hair goes gray
as our faces grow lined
two hundred thousand
by next week’s end.


Though I shall pray
that we are inscribed
in the book of life
this new year
the taste of ash
has numbed my tongue
to the honey’s sweetness
the shofar’s blast
is drowned out
by the howl of sirens
the bread of afflictions
sits not on my table
but all I can think of
are plagues.



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-Seventh Week

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

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

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

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