"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Seventieth Week

At long last
it is time to admit it:
the alarmists
were right
to be so alarmed.


Death is inevitable
so too are viruses
but that this virus
has killed so many
and that it will kill
so many more
was not
(is not)


In that moment
when I felt hopeful
the dirty plates in the sink
quickly vanished
and the unread messages
overflowing my inbox
ceased piling up.

In this moment
the tower of glasses
plates, bowls, and cutlery
has returned
and my correspondents
wonder if I shall ever respond.


In many pieces
of science fiction, authors
have imagined
that humanity would unite
if confronted
by an existential threat
from beyond.

How comforting it is
to dream of how we would
unite against such dangers
in this moment when
existential threats
have deepened our divisions.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between June 10, 2021 and July 16, 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.


who think they know best
always chide the young
that they must not allow
the perfect
to be the enemy of the good.

but how many of those
who think they know best
have forgotten
that the not good enough
is also the enemy of the good.


Look to the stars
and in the shimmer
of those distant lights
find inspiration
find hope
find awe
find perspective
but then look down
look down at your tired feet
it is this injured ground
that you stand upon
for which you are responsible.


When despair captured me
I would often imagine
that it was impossible
to truly prove
that this life here
is not in fact purgatory.

Free from despair’s clutches
I carefully read the news
and confidently conclude
that purgatory
would not be as hellish
as the present world.


Afforded the choice
of making it easy
for the virus, or
of making it hard
for ourselves
how many among us
are quite willing
to accept a calamity
in the future
rather than endure
an inconvenience
in the present.


The virus has surged
before, and
the virus has waned
before, what makes
this moment different
is that too many
are no longer paying attention.


We are past the point
at which any of us
can claim
not to know better
and yet still we carry on
as though no one had ever told us
that we are in a pandemic.


If only we could be certain
that what awaits us tomorrow
is better
than the hardships of today
we would find the strength
to endure,
our ordeal overwhelms us
because in the secret places
of our mind, we believe
that what awaits us tomorrow
is worse
than the hardships of today.


Your exhausted frown
is unwelcome
if you cannot hide it
behind a mask.

Your choice of attire
will not get you invited
to future gatherings
if you insist
on wearing sackcloth.

Your friends
appreciate that you
are concerned
they just wish that you
could be concerned
more quietly.


How fortunate it is
that I did not throw away
the masks I had purchased
how unfortunate it is
that I should find myself
needing these masks again.


On this day (in 1892)
a man was born who hypothesized
that revolutions
are not locomotives
but the attempt by the passengers
to pull the emergency brake
trapped at a border
with too many letters to write
he escaped into death
as his fellow passengers
let the locomotive continue.


Perhaps this time
(unlike in the previous instance)
we shall learn
from this surge
that follows in the wake
of our premature
declaration of victory.

And should we again
fail to learn
it will only be a matter of time
before the pandemic provides us
with another opportunity.


You must not allow
yourself to believe
that the deteriorating situation
means your sacrifices
were meaningless
that you will never know
the names or faces
of those your actions helped
does not mean
those people do not exist.

Remember this
as you prepare to make
further sacrifices.


Advice for travelers:
make sure to bring
at least two more books
than you can possible get to,
there are bookshops
where you are going
but how can you be sure
that they will have what you want?

Instead of bookmarks
just pack extra masks
that way you will have them
you will need them.


A year ago
we fantasized
about getting into our cars
and driving away
from the plague
now we know
that whatever away
we can drive to
when we arrive
we will find the plague
waiting for us there.


If it isn’t traffic
than it is rain
if it isn’t rain
than it is construction
every twenty minutes
the robotic voice informs me
that I am still four hours
(always four hours)
from my destination
luckily this year has taught me
how to calmly accept
never reaching my destination.


Its bright yellow wings
caked with soot
the dead canary
rests forgotten
on the cage’s bottom
while we
continue mining.



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 Seventieth Week

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

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

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This entry was posted on July 22, 2021 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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