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Plague Poems – The Eighty-First Week

If you must name
the current season
do us all a favor
and refer to it
as the autumn
thus may we enjoy
the crispness in the air
and the pumpkin treats
without being reminded
that the present fall
is not only a season but
the fall
of the world we once knew.

*

We were unhappy
when the plague meant
that we could not
physically work together.

We are unhappy
now that the plague means
that we can once again
physically work together.

Perhaps our unhappiness
comes not from the plague
but from our work.

*

They say that Noah
spent forty days
as well as forty nights
at sea
while the rest of the world
drowned.

We have been battling
these waves
for eighty weeks
and remain unsure
if we are the lucky ones
in the ark
or those praying
that they just need
to tread water
a little longer.

*

Bothersome
though it surely is
to have to wear a mask
in a work meeting
at least it makes it easy
to let out a bored yawn
without needing to hide
your gaping mouth
behind an apologetic hand.

*

Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between September 25, 2021 and October 1, 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.

*

What a relief it would be
if we could stop
our ongoing charade
and admit to each other
how sad
how tired
how anxious
how hopeless
we feel
no longer acting
as though such emotions
are shameful secrets.

Though before we can
admit it to each other
we must first admit it
to ourselves.

*

When the plague was new
I took my hopes
and placed them in a container
which I put into my refrigerator
so as to keep them
from going bad.

There they sit
behind the takeout boxes
yogurt cups and pasta sauce
I worry
that my hopes are getting moldy
but cannot bring myself
to check.

*

When September began
here, in this exceptional land
we were told
to prepare ourselves
for the plague’s death toll
to pass 700,000
by the year’s end.

Upon hearing this
we braced ourselves
but did not anticipate
that milestone
would be passed
by the first week
of October.

*

A government
that struggles
to keep itself open
is precisely the sort
of government
that cannot protect
its people
from a plague.

*

You should not
begin your day
here, in this exceptional land
without taking a moment
to acknowledge
that yesterday
the plague claimed
more than 2,000 of your neighbors
just as it did
the day before
and the day before that
and for so many days before that.

*

Even without
the pandemic
it would be
hard enough
to have hope
in this moment.

*

You must understand
this is a modern plague.

Flagellants do not
whip themselves in the streets,
the walls of buildings do not
warn of infection inside,
putrid carts do not
trundle down the street
accompanied by calls
to bring out the dead.

We are too busy
to be reminded
of the plague.

*

They say
that history
will not be kind
to us.

But we are not
frightened
by that threat
for we
are already
not kind
to us.

*

You have been at sea
long enough
that by now you should know
not to mistake
a colossal wave receding
for the safety of the harbor.

Hold fast
for your voyage has not ended
and your vessel’s hull
is filled with holes.

*

It is easy to confuse
fewer
than two thousand
daily deaths
with zero deaths
when you have already
stopped
paying attention.

*

The month
ends
the plague
endures.

*

Tired of looking
at the same walls
I rearranged the furniture
shifting the bookshelves
moving the desk
adding new plants
hanging different art
reconfiguring the entire space
so that now
when I stand back
I can clearly see
that I am still stuck here
looking at these same walls.

*

And now
you must stop saying
that you have been
enduring the plague
for eighteen months.

Do you not know
what the date is?
You must update
your numbers!

It is October
you have been
enduring the plague
for nineteen months.

*

Having spent months
refusing to dwell
on the death surrounding us
we shall now
devote a month
to smiling skeletons
to plastic gravestones
to floating ghosts
while still continuing
to blithely ignore
the death surrounding us.

*

When the plague had claimed
one hundred thousand
the paper of record called it
“an incalculable loss.”

When the plague had claimed
five hundred thousand
the President called
for a moment of silence.

And then the plague claimed
seven hundred thousand
and it was just another Friday.

*

The thing I miss most
from life before the pandemic
is not going maskless,
sitting in movie theaters,
attending crowded gatherings,
or dancing in noisy bars.

No,
that which I miss most
from life before
is believing
that we would not
calmly accept
seven hundred thousand
deaths.

*

*

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 librarianshipwreck.wordpress.com @libshipwreck

One comment on “Plague Poems – The Eighty-First Week

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

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2021 by in Plague Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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