"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Eighty-Sixth Week

The plastic skeletons
have disappeared
from the stores.

The cardboard gravestones
have been tossed
into the recycling bin.

The ghost in the tree
is now just a sheet
in the laundry hamper.

And now it is even easier
to ignore the death
surrounding us.


Life now
looks much
like it did before
though in the present moment
most people you see
are wearing masks.


you disembark
from an airplane
you should give thanks
that the airplane
did not crash.

you wake
from a night of sleep
you should give thanks
that the plague
has not taken you


After I exited the plane
after I walked through the terminal
after I retrieved my bag
after I descended the escalator
all I found waiting for me
in this city I once loved
was the plague.



Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between October 30, 2021 and November 5, 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.


There are words
no shortage of words
and yet none of them
are sufficient
to capture the loss
of five million names.


When we were younger
we would visit this city
sleeping in your old room
while your father’s cats
walked on us
but that life ended
even before the plague
now I visit this city alone
and from the trolley I see
the tower where you father lives
I hope his cats are well.


To the archive
I traveled
in order to research
a disaster
from which
we might learn
while living in the midst of
a disaster
from which
we are not learning.


Upon unearthing
an old report
bearing the title
“why should we be pessimistic?”
I laughed so loudly
that the librarian shushed me.

And when he walked over
to see what I found so funny
he simply let out
a tired sigh.


I did not want
to start writing

I do not want
to keep writing

But the pandemic
and so I must
keep writing


They say
that cats
always land
on their feet.

Yes, that
is what they say
but your society
is not a cat.


We worry too much
about panic
when we should
worry much more
about complacency.


you must be patient
it can take time
(indeed, a very long time)
before you will see any proof
of lessons learned
what you see quickly
(what you see now)
is not evidence
of nothing learned
but the slow process
by which we learn.

At least that
is what I tell myself.


It is not
that I
am hopeless
I will admit
every day
I seem to have
less hope
than I had
the day before.


The plague
is not an excuse
for how you fell, and
for how you act
the plague
is an explanation
for how you feel, and
for how you act.


Some guidance
would be appreciated:
at this point
are we supposed
to shake hands
to politely nod
to bump elbows
to tap feet
to modestly wave
or are we still permitted
to simply avoid other people.


There seems to be
about grades
(as educators know
there is always
about grades)
no one really believes
an A is warranted
but is an F truly deserved?
How low a passing grade
still gets credit?

For now
just be thankful
to have been granted
an incomplete.


They say we must
learn to live
with the plague
as though it is simply
an obnoxious roommate.

And though the plague
does not
leave unwashed dishes
in the sink
play its music too loudly
finish the milk
or leer at your guests
it is hard to deny
that you are still
living with it.


My friend the teacher
says she sees
hope radiating
from her students
though it does not
brighten her outlook.

When I ask her why
she calmly explains
that she has scored
their examinations
that she has graded
their essays
and so she knows
that they have not
done the reading.


The sight
of a mask worn incorrectly
may frustrate you
the sound
of a conspiratorial rant
may depress you
but even as you fixate
on such sights and sounds
do not ignore
all of those
who are trying
who are still trying
to do everything right.


I have read
the disaster
management plan
that was in
the seventh folder
in the fifth box
at the archive

and which
you probably
forgot you wrote
back in 1997

forgive me
for bothering you
but I thought
you should know
that someone read it



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

2 comments on “Plague Poems – The Eighty-Sixth Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Eighty-Fifth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

  2. Lisa Hill
    November 12, 2021

    Well, I’ve ‘liked’ this, but of course I don’t really.
    Sometimes I’m just too tired and discouraged to read your poems, sometimes they hit the mark precisely.

    “They say we must
    learn to live
    with the plague
    as though it is simply
    an obnoxious roommate.”

    Now for those of us who are double-vaxxed it’s Covid-Lite? That is, until the new variant, or the immunity wears off.
    How is it, that the best-educated, most literate generation in humanity, has managed the pandemic so badly?

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