"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Twenty-Eighth Week

A country
that does not stop
to mourn
two hundred thousand deaths
is a country
that does not have long left.


I understand
(how could I not?)
why you are mourning
the passing of one
whose name you knew so well
but in your grief
spare a thought
for the two hundred thousand
whose names you do not know.


After 150,000
deaths were ignored
I assured myself
that 175,000 deaths
would not be.

After 175,00
deaths were ignored
I assured myself
that 200,000 deahts
would not be.

Sitting in the silence
of 200,000 deahts
I begin to suspect
that no number
can shock us to attention.


I know a historian
who remembers
when Kennedy was shot.

I know a teacher
who remembers
when the Challenger exploded.

I know a student
who remembers
when the towers fell.

I do not know you
but pause
just a moment
so that you will remember
where you were
when 200,000 had died.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between September 19, 2020 and September 25, 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.


Now stop hoping
that things will return
to normal
you should have learned
by now
that it is impossible to return
to a place
that was never real.


do not say
that two hundred thousand
was unimaginable
it was all to imaginable
only we
were too cowardly
too tragically self-confident
to imagine it.


We measure tragedies
in round numbers
counting by tens then
counting by hundreds then
counting by thousands then
counting by ten thousands now
counting by hundred thousands
counting by millions.

We measure tragedies
in round numbers
when we know
we are not done counting.


How difficult it is
to find hope
in the assurance that
“we will get through this”
when two hundred thousand
of our neighbors
were once told
the same thing.


That we did not
that we would
wind up here
is precisely how
we have reached
this point.

That we do not
that we will
wind up where
we are going
is precisely why
we shall reach
that destination.


That a vaccine
is being developed
does not mean
that you should
as though you
had already received
the inoculation.


In times such as these
is there an acceptable emotion
other than grief and rage?
Yes, there is an acceptable emotion
other than grief and rage
you may also feel exhausted
as a result of
your constant grief and rage.


You should not say
“it cannot happen here”
while digging the grave
for the two hundred thousandth
plague victim.

Certainly by now
you must have learned
that the things
which “cannot happen here”
are already occurring.


In the faint light
before the darkness falls
you must plan
how you
will make it through
the darkness.


There is little
to be gained
from panicking
that may well be
but there is even
to be gained
from remaining calm.


If only we had
spent less time
the children who cry wolf
and more time
listening to their
desperate warnings
about the threats
in the darkened woods
perhaps we would not now
find ourselves
surrounded by wolves.


Trust no one
who claims
to know
who shall win
in November
but as you gaze
nervously towards
the future
the plague
is winning now.


If it
could not happen
there would be
no need
to keep saying
“it can’t happen


Considering everything
that we know
we should be elsewhere
doing other things
working desperately to sound
the tocsin
searching unceasingly to find
the emergency brake
accumulating the supplies
on which our survival depends.

We should be elsewhere
and yet
we are here.


If I were a parent
I would apologize
to my children
for the world
they will someday inherit
for the world
I could not do enough to change
for this world.

I shall apologize
to my parents
for being too wary
of the future
to be willing
to give them
a grandchild.


Do not apologize
there is no need
To feel such guilt
we are all overwhelmed
by the terrible news
we have all grown numb
from the unceasing shocks
when we hear the word “crisis”
we simply nod.

We are all overwhelmed
but remember
more than two hundred thousand
have now died.



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-Eighth Week

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

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

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This entry was posted on October 2, 2020 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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