"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Ninety-Sixth Week

To learn to live
with the virus
is an easy thing
all it requires
is that you
learn to ignore
those dying
from the virus.


Apparently it is
encouraging news
really encouraging news
that most of the deaths
(over 75% of them)
are occurring in people like
my mother
my brother-in-law
my friend
my cousin
the people who were unwell
to begin with
though it is doubtful
they find that news
very encouraging.


Your neighbors
not all, but too many of them
are failing you
in much worse ways
than stealing your newspaper
or letting their dog befoul your steps
there is no need to forgive them
they have earned your anger
but remember
your country’s institutions
are failing you as well.


Though I have not yet
entered the winding passageways
I am already
exhausted and frustrated
simply from imagining
the labyrinth
I will be expected to navigate
in order to convince
my insurance provider
to reimburse me
for these test kits.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between January 8, 2022 and January 14, 2022.

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.


Should you see them
wearing the wrong sort
wearing the insufficient sort
of mask
please, do not scold them
just be quietly grateful
that they are wearing a mask at all
and then
keep your distance.


You long for
crowded bars
full theaters
sweaty dancehalls
and noisy restaurants
but the normal you miss
that you ache for
is not a physical location
it was the peace of mind you had
when you believed your soceity
could manage a pandemic
that is a normal
to which you cannot return.


Contrary to what
the politicians and columnists say
it is not the case that this is
a pandemic of the unvaccinated
call it what it truly is
a pandemic of systemic failure.


When he would tell me
about his son
I kept my jealousy quiet
besides I was too busy
to have a child
I smiled when he showed pictures
and told myself one day
I too would have pictures to share
now when he tells me of his son
I feel relieved
not to be the parent
of a child under five.


What a relief
to be informed
that my test results are negative
my head aches
my hunched shoulders are sore
my attention is foggy
and I am completely exhausted
but it is a relief to know
those are only the result
of living in the plague times
and not the result
of being infected.


You need not
resign yourself
to catching the virus
though the leaders
who through their actions
convey their belief
that we are all going
to catch the virus
so there is nothign
they need to do
should be forced
to resign.


It had been for research
really, purely academic reasons
explain why I spent
so much of last year
reading survival manuals
thirty-one to be precise
the practical and the bizarre
I know all about preparing
for imminent collapse, yet
my cabinets are empty
and my batteries are dead.


When the plague was young
we soothed our worries
by looking to the studies
that told us how our land
was among the best prepared
to handled a pandemic.

is just another word
that describes the calm we felt
back when we could read
those studies
and still believe them.


They say
that the hospitals
are close to collapse.

They say
that the schools
are close to collapse.

They say
that testing sites
are close to collapse.

So if you
find yourself
close to collapse
take solace in knowing
that you are not alone.


We will wait
for history to tell us
just how preventable
just how manageable
just how terrible
was this plague
not because we are incapable
of passing judgment now
but because we cannot
bear to truly acknowledge
the conclusions we know
that we would reach.


Yes, of course,
it is difficult to imagine
that things can possibly become
even worse
than they are now
but not too long ago
it was difficult to imagine
that things could possible become
as terrible
as they are now.


When it appears
on bottles of salsa
or wrappers on cheese
at the supermarket
I understand
what is meant
by “mild.”

Yet I confess
in the context of
my friends and family
who can barely stop coughign
who are aching and feverish
I am less sure
what “mild” means.


If you do not know
where to find masks or tests
you need simply go
to a search engine
submit your query
and with remarkable speed
it will inform you
that you are on your own.


To speak to the people
as if they are children
is counterproductive
a condescending tone
persuades no one.

To speak to the people
as if they are adults
is complicated
a knowledgeable tone
requires faith in your audience.

How much easier it is
not to talk
to the people
at all.


This would be tolderable
almost tolerable
if only there was more
we could do
vaccinated and boosted
we upgrade our masks
avoid going out
and patiently wait
but if only there was more
we could do, we would do it
for having something to do
would make this tolerable
almost tolerable.



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 Ninety-Sixth Week

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

  2. Lisa Hill
    January 21, 2022

    I don’t really ‘like’ this, of course…
    But your poetry about the unpalatable truth is very good indeed.

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