"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Hundredth Week

One hundred thousand deaths
is an incalculable loss
deserving of the front page
in its gray entirety
nine hundred thousand deaths
is a very different matter
it is not that it is
beneath our concern
but that mention of it
can be relegated
beneath the fold.


Rational and well meaning
people can still disagree
over the best course of action
without their differences
in perspective
needing to give rise
to nasty accusations
yes, of course,
rational and well meaning
people can disagree
but some of those people
do not truly mean well.


There is no point
in wasting your energy
feigning surprise
you have known for many months
that a death total
featuring any number
followed by five zeroes
will be met with complacency
give it a few more weeks
and you’ll see that a number
followed by six zeroes
will also be ignored.


The people still heading
for the lifeboats
will just cause a panic. Besides,
the waters are cold
and who knows in which direction
we would need to row.

The ship is sinking
but it is sinking slowly.
Haven’t you heard?
If you sit patiently
you will evolve gills
before you drown.


Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between February 5, 2022 and  February 11, 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.


There are so many fables
featuring the same animals
it is no wonder
that we get them mixed up
we were so worried
about being seen as the child
who cries wolf
that we did not notice
as the wolf’s huffing and puffing
blew down our homes.


Put down your scissors
stop trimming the edges of
the plague
until it fits neatly within
your desired narrative.

Stop this fruitless attempt
to make the plague fit
within the story
you so desperately want to believe
and begin altering your narrative
to accommodate the plague.


Stop being so selfish
please, think of the sad children
forced to wear masks at school
their ears sore from elastic straps
their noses smushed by fabric
we must free them
from these bothersome masks
so that they can devote themselves
to learning
from the active shooter drills.


They haven’t gotten around
to peeling the stickers off
of the supermarket floor,
the big ones statign
that maintaining a cart of distance
between shoppers
keeps us all safe. Ignored now
the stickers are a pleasant reminder
of when we used to care
about keeping us all safe.


The men who planned
for nuclear war
were viewed as monsters
when they suggested how easily
their fellow citizens
would accept mass death
and get on with their lives.

Monstrous men they were
but in anticipating
their fellow citizens
disregard for mass death
they were not wrong.


The words we have
are insufficient for
the [this] in which we find ourselves
emergency or calamity
disaster or apocalypse
catastrophe or crisis
none of those words
seem quite accurate
perhaps we cannot face
whatever the [this] is
because we lack the vocabulary
to describe it.


A confession:
when I first began writing
these foolish poems
I believed I would do so
for a few weeks
maybe as many as ten
certainly not as many as fifty
but I find myself still writing
these foolish poems
now after a hundred weeks
and I cannot tell
when I’ll be able to stop.


We all wish to escape
from this pandemic purgatory,
but though it has been many years
since last I read it, I must admit,
I do not recall the moment
in the Divine Comedy
where those held in purgatory
are allowed to decide for themselves
that their period of suffering
is over.


Like the people
in that tale of old
we excitedly gaze
at the impressive finery
lush fabrics and expensive jewels
in which our society is robed
though our revelries
are not interrupted by a bold child
but by the plague telling us
that in actuality
our society is naked.


The restaurants
are open
as are the bars
and the stadiums
and the laundromats
and the schools
and the grocery stores
and the movie theaters
and the gyms.

The only things
that remain closed
are our eyes
and our hearts.


It is no wonder
that you feel so stuck,
there simply aren’t enough tools
to go around,
how can you possibly
dig yourself out
when all of the shovels
are still being used
to dig graves.


Stop obsessing
over yesterday’s news
dwelling in a previous day’s sorrow
will only distract you
from today’s woe.

stop obsessing
about those old headlines stating
nine hundred thousand have died
otherwise you’ll overlook
the more than ten thousand
who have died since.


By now you must have heard
everyone has heard
that the pandemic is winding down
it has been enough already
it’s time to discard your mask
get back to living like normal
you must have heard this by now
everyone has heard it
yet it seems like the plague
hasn’t gotten the message.


Do not fear
the virus
fear the things
the virus
has revealed
about your society.


Every traveler understands
that the correct off-ramp
will take you to your destination
but if in your exhaustion
you exit too soon
even more travel time is added
as you backtrack, get lost,
and run out of gas
while trying to get back on the course
you prematurely abandoned.


Come inside
you are welcome here
and safe
you can take off your mask.

We are all precautious
vaccinated and boosted
we wear masks out there
so we need not wear
our masks in here.

Have a seat
take off that calm expression
you’ve been wearing
and you can remove
your N95 as well.



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 Hundredth Week

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

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