"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Seventy-First Week

My father
(who missed us)
keeps looking at the family
assembled together here
and proudly declaring that
“we all got through this”
because I know how worried
he has been
because I know how worried
he still is
when he says
“we all got through this”
I do not respond with
“so far.”


Desperate for a change
I drove away
from the gray of the city
to hide myself
in the green of the country
but the sight of so many
flowers and insects
only made me more aware
of how gray I have become.


And I
had not moved
at all.

And I
was somewhere
far away.

And I was
a stoop shouldered elder
staring at his feet.

And I was
an unbothered youth
who had never known dismay.


Perhaps now that
the markets have remembered
that the pandemic has not ended
those who pride themselves
on knowing best
will loudly insist that they
were not the ones
assuring their readers
that there was no longer any need
for concern.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between June 17, 2021 and July 23, 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.


If the billionaires
wish to go to space
let them stay there
(besides, it is what they prefer)
we who remain here
with out sore feet
on this weary earth
would be better off
if those who can only dream
of escaping this world
were to leave it.


Whether it is with
praise or derision
it is tempting to focus
on the upward trajectory
of glistening rockets
for it provides us with a distraction
from the disheartening fact
that new infections
are once again
also on the upward trajectory.


With the most empathetic intent
we attempt to imagine
what the salmon in the river
what the shellfish in the sea
think is causing the strange heat
that cooks them alive
for the more we try to imagine
what they may think
the less we must admit
that we know the answer.


That you cannot
smell the smoke
does not mean
that the funeral pyres
have stopped burning.


According to the latest
federal statistics
due to the pandemic
life expectancy
here, in this exceptional land
has dropped by one and a half years
though the statistics fail
to adequately capture it
due to the pandemic
our expectations from life
have also been reduced.


My friend
though it is wonderful to see you
and I am so glad
that you never fell ill
I beg you
stop saying that everything
turned out fine in the end
if the plague does not hear you
the mourners will.


Were it not
for the faded sign
taped to the door
asking unvaccinated customers
to please wear a mask
it would be impossible to know
based on this shop
that there had ever been
a pandemic.


Though I am privileged
to have eyes
that often behold much
that is beautiful in this world
when I open my mouth to speak
when I focus my intent to write
I find to my distress
that all I can communicate about
is the ugliness in this world.


At my university
there were no sororities
there were no fraternities
thus I never had cause
to learn the Greek alphabet
and though I cannot tell you
the correct order of those letters
I know
that lambda comes somewhere
after delta
and after lambda
there are many more letters.


If only
learning to live
with the virus
did not require
that so very many
learn to die
from the virus
than it would be easier
to learn to live
with the virus.


The plague would like
nothing more
than for us to calmly decide
that we have no choice
but to learn to live
with its wretched presence.


And when we did not believe
that our common humanity
would get us through
we pinned our hopes
on a techno-scientific fix,
and when that solution
happily emerged at needle’s point
we were relieved,
and when that panacea fell short
we began to worry that nothing
would save us.


Placed in boiling water
tea will change the liquid
making it strong and complex
but if the tea is forgotten
the water turns cold
and the liquid will sting the tongue
like tea we thought
the pandemic’s heat would
make us strong
but now we realize it has
left us cold and bitter.


My parents are such
considerate conversationalists
they refrain from asking me
what I think will happen next
so that I do not feel forced
to lie to them
by claiming that I believe
the situation is improving.


With a little effort
you can avoid the news
turn off notifications
do not stop to read or
to even acknowledge
the latest headlines
lower the radio’s volume
turn off the television set
but the sight of a mask
the sound of a cough
will be enough to remind you.


It is possible
to learn to live
with the virus
when you are already
fully vaccinated.

It is possible
to learn to live
with the virus
when your country has
enough vaccines.

It is possible
to learn to live
with the virus
when you are confident
that you will live.



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 Seventy-First Week

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

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

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This entry was posted on July 29, 2021 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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