"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Fiftieth Week

Some outlets claim
that half a million
have died
as of yesterday.

Some outlets will claim
that half a million
have died
by this day’s end.

Some scholars quietly suspect
that half a million
have died
as of several weeks ago.


Post pandemic
economists predict
things will swiftly rebound
jobs will be plentiful
consumers will be eager
we will forget these dark times
in an orgy of dining and shopping
perhaps they are right
but how inappropriate it is
to make such predictions
when thousands still die daily.


By the time
you read the headlines
declaring that half a million
have been claimed
by the plague
the death toll will already
have passed half a million.


Lowering a flag
to half-mast
requires little arm strength.

Standing silently
for a moment
requires only slight patience.

If you would
a ghastly milestone
work to ensure
that it is the last.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between February 21, 2021 and February 26, 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.


When the history
of this catastrophe is written
February 22nd will be noted
as a day of grave significance
a country only passes
half a million deaths once
the historians shall dwell
on that date
and on how
for those who lived
during the catastrophe
it was just another Monday.


It does not take much time
to read three words:

half a million

five hundred thousand

Scarcely more time is needed
to say those words
four or five syllables
can be quickly pronounced.

Barely a moment is needed
which is the amount
of time
we can bear to devote
to the matter.


A confession:
I do not recall the date
when 100,000 had died
I had to look it up to remember
when 200,000 had died
I did not mark it on my calendar
when 300,000 had died
I am unsure if it was last month
when 400,000 had died
I fear I shall forget yesterday
when 500,000 had died.


We count too slowly
our numbers
can never keep pace
the catastrophe does not pause
for us to enumerate its toll
yesterday’s harrowing figures
are but faded photographs
of a world
that has already grown emptier.


After the moment
of silence
we immediately begin
talking again
chattering about this
gabbing about that
eagerly speaking about
anything at all
so we are not forced to dwell
on the cause of our recent silence
for any longer than
a moment.


was I one of those fools
who refused to believe
(who still refuse to believe)
that the plague is real.

Now I fear
I am falling victim
to disbelief
for I am filled with doubt
when I read the stories
claiming that the plague
is near its end.

I hope
that I am being a fool.


the sight of a train wreck
the onlooker stares
at the broken metal
wondering nauseously
how such a calamity
could have happened.

After watching
enough derailments
the onlooker begins to accept
as inevitable
that which could have been prevented
by repairing the tracks.


On Monday
we were asked
to pause
a moment
just for a moment
for a commemoration
of 500,000 plague victims.

Let these words
remind you
to pause
a moment
just for a moment
so that you may
stop to commemorate
the thousands who have died
since Monday.


Had you studied history
more thoroughly
you would know that
it is unwise
to romanticize
the past.

Had you read the news
more closely
you would know that
it is equally foolish
to romanticize
the present.


Though I wanted to
I did not believe them
a year ago
when they said
that this would all
be over
by the summer.

Though I want to
I do not believe them
when they say
that this will all
be over
by the summer.


is a virtue
I tell myself
as I pace
back and forth
back and forth
back and forth
wearing a rut into
my floor
as I wait for that
which I no longer believe
is coming.


When this is all over
my friend
I wish I could say
that I would meet you
at our regular bar
where our backs
would get poke by pool cues
where the selection was
poor yet cheap
where the tv screen always
distracted you
but our bar
has closed
and I have no new stories to tell.


Take comfort in knowing
that (at least)
it is not a leap year
this month
has been long enough already
it does not need an extra day
yet how discomforted we will be
when this month ends
and we find ourselves once more
in March.


When asked
for your opinion:

If you say
the world is bad
you will offend those
who insist
the world is good.

If you say
the world is good
you will offend those
who insist
the world is bad.

Think carefully
before you speak
your answer
will not be forgiven.


After the moment
that single moment
of silence
we return
to our previous activity:
at each other.


When the week began
we asked ourselves
how it was
that a society
an advanced society
a democratic society
an exceptional society
such as ours
could allow the plague
to claim
500,000 lives.

By the week’s end
we were reminded
that we already knew
the answer
to that question.


A society
may provide comfort
for the infirm
it can mourn
for the deceased
it might avail upon its people
to share what they have
(what little they have)
with those who need it
and that society can quake
as the stories it told
the stories it believed
about itself
come crashing down.



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 Fiftieth Week

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

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

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