"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Ninety-Ninth Week

If here
in this exceptional land
we were to observe
a minute of silence
for each life
claimed by the plague
in the course of the previous week
we would need to remain
for the entirety of this week
and much of the following one too.


We no longer say
“after the pandemic”
instead we now say
“after Omicron”
for we are confident
that this variant
will eventually end
though we are much less sure
that the pandemic ever will.


Haven’t you heard?
Being anxious about the virus
is so two years ago.
Besides, you are young and healthy
and concern for others is pas
think of yourself
you will be fine
(you will probably be fine)
stop living in the past
and start ignoring those
who are dying in the present.


Of course you are tired
of the elastic straps
and the heat of your own breath
but do not be so eager
to toss your mask aside
once your mouth is visible again
you will once more be expected
to smile.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between January 29, 2022 and  February 4, 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.


To stay inside
during a snowstorm
well, that is just good sense!
The risks of going out are serious
the wise thing to do
is obviously to stay home.

To stay inside
during a pandemic
well, aren’t you sick of this!
Stop fretting about the risks
don’t be selfish
think of the economy.


In my office
the lights keep going out
several times an hour
I am submerged in darkness
and I must wave my arms about
or jump up and down
if I wish for there to be light,
I do not remember this
previously being a problem
I suppose the plague has taught me
how to be still.


According to the historians
there have been
plagues and pandemics before
and though the historians
are quite correct, knowing that
there have been
plagues and pandemics before
is not particularly comforting
to those who live during them.


Even if you are not a believer
let us pray
let us pray that this variant
is the last
and that when this surge ends
there will be no more
we were not prepared
for this wave
we were not prepared
for the previous wave
so let us pray
as we are not preparing
for what may come.


How easy it would be
for us to learn
from our mistakes
if only such learning
did not first require
that we acknowledge
our mistakes.


What did you think
was going to happen?

Try to remember,
when the media stories
about the strange new virus
could no longer be ignored
what did you predict?
How long would it last?
How many dead?

There’s no shame in admitting
that this
isn’t what you expected,
but what was?


Should you commit
an infraction
you may be required to pay
for your deed
this is a form of punishment
and it is called
a “fine.”

So if you ask me
how I am holding up
and I calmly respond
it is not because I am well
but because of late I feel
as if I
am being punished.


I am no ascetic monk
the fantasy
of a hot vax spring
sounds enticing
though given the choice
I would still prefer
my neighbors’ safety
over my own pleasure.


I was misled
by novels I read
when I was young
they led me to believe
those who do a plague’s bidding
wear putrid sackcloth
lurk in shadows wreathed
in a cloud of buzzing flies
and yet here
those who do the plague’s bidding
wear expensive suits
and appear regularly on television.


The plague has carried much
away from us
parents and lovers
colleagues and friends
relatives and children
the famous and the unknown
we shall not forget the date
when it stole a life from us
though it is hard to know
exactly what day it was
when the plague carried away
our hope.


I have read a scholarly book
in which historians argue
that the dark ages
were not really all that dark
perhaps in some future era
historians will write
that our age, the one illuminated
by computer screens
was not really all that bright.


If we cannot bring ourselves
to truly acknowledge
the calamity
we have been enduring
we will not be prepared to face
the catastrophes
that await us.


Were it not
for the plague, consider
where it is
you would be in this moment.

Were it not
for the plague, consider
who it is
you would be in this moment.

you would be
exactly where
you are now
but you would not
be this you.

This you
enduring a plague.


Now that the fervor has subsided
go to to the pharmacy
and purchase masks and test kits
not to hoard but to have
the panic is over
they have plenty in stock
bring them home and keep them
under your bathroom sink
to wind up not needing them
is hardly the worst thing
that could happen.


There is so little
that I can do at this point
I can follow the updates
I can keep wearing a mask
I can try to live carefully
but really, there’s so little
I can do at this point
though at least I can tell you
that if you too feel adrift
I am in this rudderless boat
beside you.


It is quite fortunate
that you view apocalyptic prophecies
as being ridiculous
if you were the type
who believed in such silliness
the sound of the hooves
of war and conquest
galloping to reunite
with their fellow riders
pestilence and death
might strike you
as rather foreboding.



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 Ninety-Ninth Week

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

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