"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Fifty-Fourth Week

That which makes
the tragedy unbearable
is that the world
carries on.

That which makes
the tragedy bearable
is that the world
carries on.


Two signs hang
in the shop’s window
the first reads
“mask required for entry”
the second reads
“smile behind your mask”
how fortunate it is
that only one is mandatory.


In dark times
in horrid times
you may feel shame
at being brought
to your knees
by events that
are as nothing
in comparison
to the greater tragedy.

But waste no energy
on such feelings of shame
do you not already feel
wretched enough?


As long as
I keep writing
these stupid poems
I will be able
to get through this.

At least this
is what I tell myself
as I write
of these stupid poems.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between March 20, 2021 and March 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.


Do not flatten the differences
every kind of disaster
every tragic event
is distinct
yet what unites so many
of the calamities that befall us
(with sickening regularity)
is that they could be
if only our society chose to.


Turn off notifications
avoid social media
do not turn on the television
leave the newspaper outside
the steps you take
to shield yourself
form the bad news
will not prevent
more bad news from being made.


Perhaps the reason
why giving up
such a popular option
is that just giving up
is much less expensive.


If they could only
tell me
that their efforts are futile
I would be alright
for I would know
to grieve.

If they could only
tell me
that their efforts are working
I would be alright
for I would know
to breathe.

If only they could
tell me.

If only.


To receive a message
with a subject line
“a message to students
increasing COVID-19
positivity rates”
is not particularly


That you have had
a year
to practice patience
does not mean that you
will know what to do
when you are told
that the only thing to be done
is to wait.


We have become too casual
in using the word
“post” as a prefix
we have become too careless
in tossing about the word
as if by repeating these words
we can somehow make them true
they are hopeful words
to use on some eventual tomorrow
but today is still
the era of “if.”


Caught unprepared
in a heavy downpour
it is impossible
to specify the exact moment
wherein you cease being wet
and become truly and genuinely
soaked through:
your clothes an hair
clinging to your skin
like souvenir magnets
to the refrigerator door.

So too
with exhaustion.


After a year
that instructed us
in the folly of making plans
for the future
we have learned to attach
the word “hopefully”
to all of our anticipated events.


I never got along
with the chair in my office
it squeaked constantly
the cushions were too thin
its angle bothered my back
one armrest had gone missing
the chair I sit in
as I work from home
is much more comfortable
but every morning when I sit down
I long for that terrible chair.


Though I too am eager
to spend my evenings
other than at home
I confess that I have not missed
feeling pressured
to have an intriguing answer
when friends or colleagues ask
“what did you do last night?”


After a year cloistered inside
I am too tired
too foul of mood
too out of practice
in making small talk
too grief stricken and
too anxiety ridden
to have the energy to contemplate
returning to public life.


You must not forget
recent history:
remember: it was this week
a year ago
during which a sullen leader
warned at a press conference
that the plague might claim
as many as 240,000 lives.

He only underestimated
by 306,000.

He only underestimated
by 306,000
thus far.


Last year
at my family’s Seder
we broke from tradition
instead of concluding with
“next year in Jerusalem”
we stared at each other
on our computer screens
and said
“next year together”
unwilling to imagine then
that a year later
we would have to say
“next year together”


After so many weeks
(I confess, I have lost count)
in which the plague claimed
more than ten thousand
of our neighbors
it is worth celebrating a week
in which that number
below ten thousand.

But do not cheer too loudly
yes, fewer deaths than ten thousand
but not by much.


After ten plagues
freed them from bondage
in their impatience
they worshiped gold
and so were forced to wander
the desert for forty years
as they searched for
the land of milk and honey.

Pharaohs die
plagues pass over some
and those who do not learn
never reach
the promised land.



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-Fourth Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Fifty-Third Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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

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