"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Forty-Sixth Week

a week will begin
the way they used to
with you rushing out the front door
keys in hand
already late
hot coffee burning your hand
as it spills from the travel mug
cold win stinging
your maskless face
that week will surely come
but it is not this week.


Some teachers
allow their students
to retake tests
when the distracted students
fall short
more time to study
the material is given
more time to learn
from past mistakes is allowed
the course is not over
grades are not yet final
so the plague tests and retests us
still we fail.


At the outset
you prepared yourself
by thinking of
books you would read
letters you would write
feasts you would cook
exhausted you look not at
unread stacks of books
full sheets of stamps
takeout containers in the recycling
there is no shame
at least you did not
start a podcast.


A curmudgeonly theorist
once declared
that after 1945
it was barbaric
barbaric to write poetry
perhaps he was correct
but to stop writing poetry
would be to let the barbarians win.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between January 23, 2021 and January 29, 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.


In my sleep
I was visited by a time traveler
perplexed I asked
“why have you not
gone back
to fix the past”
the time traveler replied
“what if I have fixed the past
but this


is as good as it gets”
before I could respond
I woke
startled by the sound
of my neighbor coughing.


Only fools believe
that the task
of learning
from yesterday
can be put off
until tomorrow.


no not this Tuesday
last Tuesday
was a historic day
for crossing the threshold
of four hundred thousand deaths
happens only once
historic yes
yet it was also simply
a day from a week ago
and now here we are
on this Tuesday
seven days and
twenty thousand deaths later.



just a moment

I know you are busy
there is so much that calls
for your limited attention
but just a moment
that the world has passed
the bleak milestone
of a hundred million cases
deserves a moment
at least a moment
of your attention.

And now
that moment has passed.


I swear
the promising headlines
have not escaped
my notice.

Yet whenever I hear
that this will
all be over
come the summer
I remember
how we were promised
the same
a year ago.


When the plague is over
definitively and completely gone
I fear
that I will have to go back
to concocting elaborate excuses
for why I am unable to go out
on Friday night.


Watching the graphs
fluctuate senselessly
as business commentators
rend their clothes in frustration
is a welcome distraction
from staring at the graphs
that continue to track
the plague’s rising toll.


In this year
wherein I have aged
a decade
my reflection shows
that my hair has lost
little of its color
the strands look now
much as they did before
instead it is my face
that has gone gray.


When the ship strikes the iceberg
oh it is tempting
to chuckle
at the course the captain set
to shake your head
at the drowsy watchmen
in the moment it may seem
to play with the ice shards
that fell on the deck
but listen
listen closely
you can hear the hull


We contribute to
the more
while longing
for there to be


Step back from
that precipice
to which
you were led.

You are in a
new moment
better days
are just ahead.

The foul air
is clearing
you can breathe
once again.

If only it were
so easy
to resurrect
the dead.


In shame I confess
I have forgotten
the exact date
when the plague
first claimed
four thousand lives
in one day.

In greater shame I confess
I have forgotten
how to be shocked
by the plague claiming
more than
four thousand lives
in one day
as that happens now
with such regularity.


Had we only been willing
to wear a mask
a year ago
perhaps we would not
find ourselves now
being told by the experts
that in this perilous moment
we should all start wearing
a mask
over our other mask.


We laugh
at how our ancestors
frightened of the dark
sat huddled
around the light of the fire
telling elaborate stories
to feel safe.

Our descendants will laugh
at how we
frightened of the dark
sat hunched
over the light of our screens
telling elaborate stories
to feel safe.


Beneath the fluorescent lights
of the classroom
the young were taught
mathematics and writing
history and music
languages and science
barred from their schools
the young learn now
in lonely rooms
as the plague subjects them
to a daily lesson
on their world’s fragility.


If you must
weep or grumble
walk to an empty room
close the door
and do it there
no one wants to be bothered
by such sounds
after so many months
you should be accustomed
to hiding your worries
keep your emotions to yourself
no one wants to be reminded
that they too
are breaking.



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

3 comments on “Plague Poems – The Forty-Sixth Week

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

  2. fgsjr2015
    February 6, 2021

    Remove the greatest difference among humans—race/color—and left are less obvious differences over which to clash, such as sub-racial identity (i.e. ethnicity), nationality, religion and so forth down that scale we tumble.

    Add a deadly pandemic disease to the already problematic equation and there’s a real potent fuel for the hateful fire.

  3. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Forty-Seventh Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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