The shadow of the plague

We were like leaves
still green but waiting
for September frost
to drain the sap from veins
and boil our blood before
we blushed and fell.

It is the frost,
the flame and ice
both night and light,
a pillow pressed
against our face,
it’s foe and friend.

We’ve tried with mint
we’ve tried with sage and rosemary
to bless us
from its vapors of miasma
from its savage breath,
but when it’s dark
it raises from the shadows
and calls our names.

It hides in lover’s lips,
in the chalice of communion,
in joys of music and in sport,
and being present
as the death
inside the breath of others,
we are left alone.

And helplessly we wait,
as lonely sailors
reefing sails,
to ride relentless waves
of an endless storm.

But the day will come
when the sea is calm
and the plague has left,
when we will have to ask ourselves:
what have we learned?

Plague Hospital by Francisco Goya

At dVerse Poetics I host today and the topic is Plague and pestilence. In the shadow of the pandemic, we must find a word of comfort.

April 7, 2020

17 responses to “The shadow of the plague

  1. Hopefully the day will come when its calm again and we have learned some lessons to treat mother nature with care. Until then we wait for this storm to be over. Love the contrasting images of this stanza:

    It is the frost,
    the flame and ice
    both night and light,
    a pillow pressed
    against our face,
    it’s foe and friend.

  2. A great question…will we ever learn!
    Loved this imagery!
    waiting
    for September frost
    to drain the sap from veins
    and boil our blood before
    we blushed and fell.

  3. There is very little relief or solace here. The devastation is too much of a price to pay for a lesson. Fear and death are terrible teachers.

  4. A terrific sense of dread and helplessness here, good word-smithing. Will we emerge having gained wisdom, or will too many backslide to their previous profiles?

  5. A good write, Bjorn. Let’s hope the lessons learned will become a better way of life.

  6. I think of you and your countrymen, Bjorn.. so hoping you have begun your Spring journey of isolation in nature so you may return to a better world,free from the fear of “the death
    inside the breath of others…”

  7. I love how you link past plagues and today’s situation through nature, Björn. I also like the personification in the lines:
    ‘but when it’s dark
    it rises from the shadows
    and calls our names’
    and the sailor/sea-storm metaphor.

  8. Personally I don’t think we’ll learn a damned thing, but maybe I’ve just lived through one too many Republican presidents.

  9. It’s useful to have this to muse on while we are in the midst of the panic. “But the day will come
    when the sea is calm
    and the plague has left,
    when we will have to ask ourselves:
    what have we learned?”

  10. That is the big question. There is a whole shift that needs to be made around the stopping of wild animal trafficking and “wet” markets, a direct connection to the pandemic which I am addressing soon over at earthweal. The markets closed at the beginning of the virus outbreak. I was stunned to learn they re-opened the minute loakcdown was lifted. Do humans ever learn anything?

  11. That is the big question. There is a whole shift that needs to be made around the stopping of wild animal trafficking and “wet” markets, a direct connection to the pandemic which I am addressing soon over at earthweal. The markets closed at the beginning of the virus outbreak. I was stunned to learn they re-opened the minute loakcdown was lifted. Do humans ever learn anything?

  12. SO powerful, Bjorn. The metaphor to leaves is amazing and fits the waiting. The ending question is appropriate for all those years ago, and will be again when Covid-19 is eviscerated….and we surely hope it will be.

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