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‘Plague Poems’ by J. K. Durick

By: J. K. Durick

Plague Poem for Day Eleven

I remember all the saints’ lives from school –

Sister Mary putting on an LP and there

they’d be – martyrdom in various forms

and miracles of every sort. Violence and

magic were what young audiences needed

even back then, but I must admit the ones

that stood out most for me were the hermits –

saint this or that heading out alone to face

the wilderness, hours by himself, sheltered

in place, no coming or going, getting and/or

spending, sitting in a cave or hovel, apart

and not a part of anything, socially distanced

talking to God or anything passing by, perhaps

a rabbit, a squirrel, or an hallucinations, like

Hieronymus Bosch has them in his triptych

on this type, saints and madmen together in

one show, a show worth watching now and then,

especially, as we act out our days as hermit saints

and madmen on TV.


Plague Poem for Day Seventeen

The groceries are there on the front porch or

in the garage, waiting the all-clear; my sons

leave them, as if reenacting a children’s story,

one I must have read them, a childish tale about

kindly spirits, elves perhaps, who leave enough

for the impoverished elderly couple. It’s easy to

imagine the picture on the facing page – the amazed

old folks, with tears of bewildered joy, and the gifts,

the magical food, with radiant lines around it to show

the surprise and wonder of it. But now they leave us

instructions: how long to wait to bring the things in,

and that things handled, even by kindly elves, can be

contaminated, even kill, so we need to wipe things down,

end their link to the world beyond us. It’s like a spell has

been cast on us — people we know avoid us, some walk by,

wave or nod, while others put groceries on the front porch

or in the garage and leave before we get to say anything

at all.


Plague Poem for Day Thirty-Five

We walk at a prescribed time each afternoon,

like inmates given a bit of outside exercise,

a turn or two around the yard before going

back in. Our walks, regardless of their sameness,

are restorative, jog our memory of earlier times,

help flatten the curve of our anxiety, give short

term goals in our day, become something I mark

on the calendar as if they were part of a countdown.

Yesterday, the day before, later today, each falls

into place as if they were a sort of countdown,

counting down to something significant, the end,

the beginning, the beginning of the end, or just

the middle of things beyond our control. Walking

has become a form of exercise, both physical and

mental, perhaps even spiritual. Why, just yesterday

I saw us up ahead, about to make the turn onto

Duchess Avenue, we looked back at us but didn’t

wave, as if in these walks we had become strangers

to ourselves, vague neighbors turning the corner,

turning the corner and soon will be gone.

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