"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Seventeenth Week

Living in a state
of permanent emergency
is absolutely intolerable
we must reject it completely
so that we can return to normal
wherein we live in a state
not of permanent emergency
but of emergencies
that have become permanent.


I used to wonder
why it was
that historians
would describe certain decades
as “long.”

Less than halfway through
the current decade
I no longer need to wonder.


A friend told me
that a feeling of impending doom
is correlated
with a potassium deficiency
so if it feels as though
the world is ending
what you really need to do
is eat a banana
and if that does not cure you
of your despair
at least you’ll know
your potassium levels are fine.


If they asked
us to wear masks again
many might refuse.

If they made
testing freely available once more
many might not go.

If they warned
of the serious long term risks
many might not listen.

If they tried
to do more
it might not work out
so they have decided
not to try at all.



Editorial Note: This is a collection of Plague Poems written between June 4, 2022 and June 10, 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.


It is impossible not to believe
in the future
we move towards it
whether we open our arms or not
running eagerly or slowly trudging
it is always there before us
thus to lose faith in the future
is not to believe that it will not exist
but to believe the future
will be worse.


When I asked
how they were managing
my friend the doctor
told me a joke:

What do you call
a pandemic
that is being ignore?

When I said
that I did not know
they replied:

You still call it
a pandemic.

Neither of us laughed.


For months I have worried
that every cough and headache
may be a sign of the virus
and though that fear remains
I now also worry
that every rash and skin discoloration
may be a sign of the pox.


Perhaps you feel
that this time is different
or to the contrary
perhaps you feel
that this will change nothing
what matters most
is that you have not yet lost
your capacity to feel.


Should they look back
on this era
historians will not be surprised
by the ways in which
everything fell apart
though perhaps they will wonder
how it could be
that we were surprised.


Where once
being surrounded
by masked faces
reminded me
of the plague
these days there are few things
that remind me as forcefully
of the plague
as being surrounded
by unmasked faces.


How calmly
we have chosen to live
amongst the hazards
that end our lives.


When the plague was new
there was solace in believing
that it would teach us
to care for one another
it was a questionable belief
embarrassingly naïve
but how much easier it was
to endure the plague
before the it showed us
how little we care for one another.


If more works
of post-apocalyptic fiction
included prologues
they would describe
how many people
spent the waning days
of the world as they knew it
helplessly and hopelessly
going to work
watching re-runs
and arguing with strangers online
as their world steadily fell apart.


To observe
a moment of silence
in commemoration of the dead
is not the same thing
as falling completely silent
about the cause of their death.


For the person
staring at
a spreadsheet
every death is calculable.

For the person
staring at
a gravestone
every death is incalculable.


I no longer trust
my bathroom scale
for its blinking numbers insist
that I have lost several pounds
and though I suppose this explains
the bagginess of my shirts
the looseness of my pants
the thinness of my face
I know that never before
has my body felt this heavy.


History is not a circle
nor is it a straight line
it soars to great heights
and plummets to abyssal lows
it crawls ever ahead
while seeming to move backwards
we have not been
exactly here before
this only feels familiar
as this is not the first time
we have fallen to these depths.


And now you know
exactly how it is
that you will behave
as your world crumbles.


I recently learned a new word:
derived from the Latin
struthio (for “ostrich”)
the term struthonian (noun)
denotes a person who ignores facts
who buries their head in the sand
who refuses to take responsibility
how unfortunate it is
that this is such a useful word
in this moment.


Learning from history
is a group project
you can do the reading
the studying and the work
but on this assignment
you will not be graded
as an individual
whatever grade is earned
by the least attentive group member
is the one that you
the one that all of us
shall have to live with.



Plague Poems…the following 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 Hundred-and-Seventeenth Week

  1. Pingback: Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Sixteenth Week | LibrarianShipwreck

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