"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Forty-Fifth Week

That you have become
so accustomed
to waiting
for the world to get worse
does not adequately prepare you
for the moments
when your fears
come true.


In my youth I dreamt
of travel
there were museums to wander
ancient ruins to explore
forests to hike
mountains to climb
new cuisine to devour
having aged considerably
I have learned
to dream smaller
now I would be satisfied
to travel fifty miles
so that I may see my sister.


It is much easier
to share a quotation
than it is
to truly understand
the quoted words.


In the plague times
you must remember
to look up
to look up at the stars
lest you start to believe
that the wreckage
through which you trudge
is all that there is
and when the foul day arrives
when the smoke
from the crematorium
obscures the stars
they are still there.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between January 16, 2021 and January 22, 2021.

They were initially posted online on Twitter at @plaguepoems and Instagram at @plague_poems.

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.


I have nothing useful
to offer you
though I try
I can barely
steady myself these days
a splintered crutch
an unattached guard rail
a misleading set of directions.

I have nothing useful
to offer you
but still
I will offer
whatever little I can.


It is a strange position
to proclaim that
“we have survived him”
when 400,000 of your neighbors
did not survive
the last year of him.


That the smoke is clearing
does not mean that your ordeal
has concluded
you remain here
still standing in your present spot
amidst the ruins
wearing worn out boots
with many miles left
in your journey
without the smoke
it will be easier to breathe
but you must keep moving.


By the time the headline
that the plague had now claimed
four hundred thousand lives
was written
was published
was read
the number of deaths
had already lurched past
four hundred thousand.


Keep your dirges to yourself
nobody wants to hear them
let yourself and let your fellows
remember the sound of rejoicing
just for a day
there will be plenty of time
for songs of lamentation
in the weeks to come.


Like the castaway
who has forgotten
the taste
of fresh water
only to find it unsettling
upon finding an oasis
so too is hope
strange to the taste
when you have gone so logn
without it.


It is too early
still too soon
to declare that we
have learned nothing from this
but look around you
it is not too early
not still too soon
to see and hear the many
who are committed
to learning nothing from this.


Drink your champagne
eat your cake
dance and sing
if you have the energy
do not deny yourself cheer
but be mindful
of your volume
some of your neighbors
are trying to speak
with loved ones in the ER
while others are
standing in the bathroom
as they read the thermometer.


There is no longer
being poured on the flames
yet we are still sitting
in this burning building.


“My no-fun friend”
is how my brother
who has no patience
for my pessimism
describes me.

Handsome and successful
I always envied
his confidence
that tomorrow
will be better.

While his toddler slept
he asked me
“how much
will the plague get?”
and I could not reply.


The inauguration
of a new President
is clearly a historic event
the type that will be remembered
that a new record
of plague deaths
four thousand four hundred and nine
was set the same day
that historic event
will be forgotten.


For the sake of decency
refrain from saying
that life
has returned to normal
while walking through a cemetery
fresh graves
are still being dug
the mourners will hear you.


Though the headlines
at least the ones I have read
speak of change
my exhaustion has not abated
I continue to toss and turn
through the night
kept awake by the noise
that comes through the thin walls
of my neighbor’s hammering cough.


the records are not broken
every twenty-four hours
Wednesday’s ghastly toll
has not yet been surpassed
though that will bring no comfort
to the loved ones
of the three thousand
eight hundred and eighty-nine
who were claimed
by the plague
the following day.


Though I used to grumble
whenever I found myself
jostled and bumped by strangers
I have come to miss
the banal pleasure
of walking through a crowded shop.


When the ship sank
you were thrown
like so many
into the freezing waters
battered by waves
harassed by sharks
mocked by gulls
you somehow managed
not to drown
after so long treading water
this debris you now rest upon
may feel like salvation
though the shore
still remains distant.



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 Forty-Fifth Week

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

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

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