"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Eightieth Week

You need not know
the exact number
or the statistical details
that will allow you
to place that first number
into a broad historic or
population sized context
for you to be able to conclude
that too many people have died.

That was a conclusion
you should have reached
last year.


By now
you should know better
than to speak of the plague
in the past tense.


To be attuned
to this world
is to grieve.

If you are asked
why you are mourning
you need not specify
what pains you most
it is enough to gesture
at around you.

But do not prepare
an explanation
you will not be asked
those who are not grieving
do not care why it is that you are.


If this were truly not
who we are
if we were genuinely
better than this
than we would have
no need
to keep saying
that this is not
who we are
and that we are
better than this.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between September 18, 2021 and September 24, 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.


You must stop saying
that we are back where we were
at this point last year.

A year ago during this week
we were lamenting
the news that
more than 200,000 had died.

But here in this moment
we are shrugging with disinterest
at the news that
more than 675,000 have died.


According to historians
in this exceptional land
the 1918 pandemic
claimed the lives
of 675,000.

According to the news
in this exceptional land
the plague has
claimed the lives
of 675,000.

675,000 in 1918
is not the same as
657,000 in 2021
but that means little
to the mourners.


At this late hour
it no longer surprises me
to see how many are eager
to minimize
the pandemic’s death toll.

And while
it no longer surprises me
seeing such reactions
is still more than sufficient
to depress me.


I know
that this is not
who I am.

I know you say
that this is not
who you are.

But when I look
beyond us two
when I look around
at the rest of us
I begin to worry
that this really is
who we are.


Years from now
that the plague
has ended by then)
we will look back
and remember
being annoyed by our mask
while forgetting
the depths of the catastrophe
that had led us
to cover our faces.


I tell myself
the plague has changed me
I must believe
that it has changed me
for I cannot stand the thought
that I have always been
the despairing wretch I am now.

I must believe that the plague
has done this to me
so that I can believe
that I will be able
to change back.


Though it is refreshing
to be be back together
in this windowless conference room
I will admit
these meetings were more tolerable
when a disinterested cat
would occasionally
saunter across the screen
briefly allowing us to forget
that we were stuck in a meeting.


That personal actions and
personal responsibility
are not in and of themselves
to solve our societal problems
does not mean
that you should behave as though
personal actions and
personal responsibility
are meaningless.


I already know
that this will not
be the last time
I place an order
for another box
of disposable masks.

I already know
that this will not be
the last time,
but perhaps next time
will be the last.

And if it is not
perhaps the time after that
will be the last.


It is said
that the damned
down in hell
derive some small comfort
from knowing
that the torments they endure
are a result
of their own misdeeds.

Here in life
your careful considerate steps
will not protect you
from suffering torments
that result from
the misdeeds of others.


I do not worry
that I am running out
of things to say.

Though I worry
that I am running out
of the strength
to say them.


You must stop
worrying so much.
Did your grandmother
not warn you?
You’ll give yourself
an ulcer this way.
Such a woeful focus
is terrible for your health.

You must stop
worrying so much,
otherwise you’ll exhaust
your capacity to worry
while there’s still so much
to worry about.


Take the fantasies
of what you will do
after the pandemic
and put them in a drawer
keep them there until
such a time
as you can safely retrieve them,
do not throw them away
(you need something
to look forward to)
but do not bother
buying plane tickets
just yet.


When you are
by the headlines
remind yourself
that though
it rarely makes
the headlines anymore
the plague
has not ended.


If an earthquake or
tsunami or wildfire
were to claim
two thousand lives
in a single day
we would stare
in horrified disbelief
before eagerly donating
to assist the survivors.

When the pandemic
claims two thousand lives
day after day
it is just another week
in the plague times.


We hope
that history will learn
from our mistakes
because at this point
we have concluded
that we will not
learn from our mistakes.



Plague Poems…the next 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

One comment on “Plague Poems – The Eightieth Week

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

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This entry was posted on September 28, 2021 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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