"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Fifty-First Week

Though words of warning
had been spoken
they were said at a low volume
you can be forgiven
for failing to hear them
over the loud assurances
not to worry
you had an excuse
for believing that
there was no reason
to be alarmed.

But that was then
by now
you should be wiser.


Enough with your grumbling
do you not realize
how many people there are
who would gladly trade their teeth
to be in your position?

Of course your situation is bad
but look at the news
and be thankful
for the smallness of your misery.

do you not now
feel even worse?


the plague does not
restaurants to be reopened
the plague does not
anything at all.

it is not that we are doing
what the plague
but that so many of us
continue to do
whatever it is that we


Where once we laughed
at the suggestion to sing
happy birthday
to ensure that we were washing
our hands
for long enough to cleanse them
of the plague
we must find a different tune
as we want no additional reminders
that we have been trying to wash
the plague from our hands
for a year.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between February 27, 2021 and March 5, 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.


Like animals preparing
for the arrival of winter
so the prescient
began to fill their pantries
a year ago
beans and toilet paper
flour and frozen vegetables
they were prepared to stay in
for many weeks if necessary
but even the prescient
did not build up
a twelve month supply.


Should you require proof
that the situation is improving
know that where it once took
three days
for the plague to claim
ten thousand lives
the plague now requires
five days
to achieve that ghastly feat.


After a year
we should have learned
how the cycle goes:
we declare victory
over the weakened plague
dancing and drinking in joy
only to miserably flee
behind the safety
of walls and masks
when the plague attends
our premature celebration.

After a year
we should have learned.


Giddy to have escaped
from the capsized ship
they smashed holes
into the thin wood
of their lifeboat’s bottom
then stared slack jawed
with perplexity and horror
as that which was to be
their salvation
began to take on water.


You will not need
to wear that mask
a day will come when
you once more feel
the wind sun and rain
on your uncovered nose
on your naked lips
yes that day will come
but it has not come yet.


My aging parents miss their children
it has been too long
speaking to an image
(even a moving image)
on a screen
only makes the distance more acute
so they declare
they will visit in April.

After so many months
I had thought they had learned
to give up
on making plans.


You who are eager for renewal
must resist the temptation
to project greater meaning
onto the budding trees
the genuine arrival of spring
(alas) does not mark
the end of your metaphorical winter
you must remember
a year ago
at this very hour
the trees were also beginning
to bloom.


Where once we shuddred
as we stared at the projections
soaking our hands in sanitizer
(in hopes of warding off uncertainty)
until our skin cracked and bled
we have come to realize
that more frightful than
the unknown future
is to come to know
to truly know
the unstable present.


We tell ourselves
that when the pandemic ends
we will throw off our masks
indulging in the pleasures
of which we have been deprived
crowded gatherings
lavish meals
drunken nights
new lovers and
old friends
at least this is what
we tell ourselves we shall do
when the pandemic ends.


How will we know
that the plague
has ended?

When all
have been

When there are
no longer
daily deaths?

When hospitals
for elective surgeries?

When we brave
crowded spaces
without masks?

When we have
from this ordeal?

the next plague


Do not permit yourself
to feel disappointed
for not achieving the goals
you set yourself for the pandemic
your novel remains unwritten
your sourdough starter has died
your guitar sits in its case
do not feel defeated
the pandemic is not yet over
you still have plenty of time.


As we ascended
towards the peak
we grew nauseous
from the strange air
of those terrible heights
and when we descended
so rapidly
we grew dizzy with glee
thrilled to one more find ourselves
on level ground
forgetting that the plageau
upon which we stand
remains perilously high.


We commit to memory
only those things
that we have cause to believe
will not always be with us
the everyday
the banal
need not be remembered
for they surround us always.

It was once
the everyday
the banal
but how I wish I could recall
how the wind felt
against my lips.


A lightning bolt
or an ax’s blade
can bring even a sturdy tree
to the ground
the forest’s floor
is filled with rotting logs
that were felled
not by sudden calamity
but by bending slowly
a little more each day
until one morning
the tree becomes
a jagged stump and
a shattered trunk.


At last week’s beginning
we paused
to silently acknowledge
that the plague had claimed
five hundred thousand
of our neighbors
but our society is too busy
too inured to four zeros
to bother to stop
even momentarily to mourn
the twenty thousand
who have died since.


I no longer remember
what it is I did a year ago
on the last weekend
before the world as I knew it
did I drink at a bar
dance at a concert
I no longer recall
what it is I did
but I am certain I did not believe
I would have to wait
so long
to do it again.



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 Fifty-First Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Fiftieth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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

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