"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Fortieth Week

There have always been
disasters made by men
what sets this moment
is that we know the names
of the men
who allowed this
to become a disaster.


Permit yourself
to feel heartened by the images
of the first vaccinations
occasions such as this
should be applauded
draw strength from this moment
you will need to
your fortitude
as many dangerous miles
these first vaccinations
from the final ones.


When the number of deaths
one hundred thousand
the newspaper declared it
“an incalculable loss”
when the number of deaths
three hundred thousand
it was just another Monday.


On the day
when the vaccinations began
the death count passed
three hundred thousand.

When the historians
write of this pandemic
they will linger over
that ironic juxtaposition.


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


It is not a single shot
this vaccine
rather it requires two doses
administered thirty days apart
it would be easier to believe
that all would remember to get
both doses
both necessary doses
if only there were not
still so many
who wear their masks wrong.


Your legs and arms and lungs
may be tired
from treading water
in this cold ocean
for so many months
but somehow you must find
the strength to keep
your head above the waves
as those looking down at you
from the deck of the ship
continue debating
whether or not
to let you drown.


Your mask should always be
just slightly too tight
let it pull uncomfortably
on your ears
allow it to painfully
crush your nose
make sure that it presses
annoyingly to your lips
you must ensure that it always
distracts you
lest you begin to forget
why it is
that you wear a mask.


Do not expect those
who cannot even
to acknowledge
what occurred yesterday
to learn from history.


That cozy pleasure
of hunkering down
beneath blankets
to wait out the snowstorm
is somewhat
when you have been
hunkering down
beneath sackcloth
to wait out the plague
for months.


Those who have
grown accustomed
to a regular diet
of nothign
know better than
to refuse
the offer of a crust
though they will not
the full loaf they are owed.


Every new record set
awakens us
from our inured slumber.

When more than
three thousand die
in a day
we shift uncomfortably
but when
two thousand nine hundred
and fifty seven die
in a day
no headline alerts us.

Fear the day
when three thousand deaths
no longer disturbs us.


Those who know best
assure us
six hundred dollars
is enough.

To keep us housed
and fully fed
for they know these
times are tough.

The end is close
vaccines are here
don’t despair
things aren’t that bleak.

Be thankful for the
six hundred bucks
though it won’t
last you a week.


We were outraged
when they told us
that our lives
were only worth
twelve hundred dollars
though now that they claim
our lives are worth only
six hundred dollars
we long
for their previous generosity.


You must not blame
the plague
for the heartlessness
of your leaders
after all
it was not
the plague
that elected them.


According to one count
the plague claimed
three thousand
six hundred and eleven

A different count claims
the number is lower
only three thousand
for hundred
plague deaths yesterday.

According to those
who study these counts
the worse number
is too optimistic.


Humor is an effective
coping mechanism
that we hid our
with the offered pittance
by imagining how the next
relief bill
would consist of
a twenty dollar gift card
a 50% off coupon
a medium cheese pizza
our laughter preparing us
for the nothing
we have come to expect.


There is no shame
in being derided as
an alarmist
when the state of affairs
is so alarming.


Be fair
you cannot blame those in power
for every crisis that occurs
hurricanes earthquakes
tsunamis and plagues
occur during the reign
of the just and the unjust alike
you cannot blame those in power
for a plague occurring
though you can blame them
for letting the plague win.


Had you learned
the perils of laughter
from when you chuckled
at the predictions
of a quarter million dead
by year’s end
you would not now scoff
at the predictions
of half a million dead
by April.


There is little I can do
to offer comfort
you are there
I am not
if we could embrace
it would not be safe
responsibility dictates
we maintain our distance
besides (let us be honest)
we are strangers
there is little I can do
to offer comfort
but when you read this
I am with you.



Plague poems…the following 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 Fortieth Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Thirty-Ninth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Forty-First Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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