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Re-reading La Peste in the time of COVID-19

September 7, 2020



Re-reading La Peste in the time of COVID-19
 
I.
 
Fléau – I had to look it up – it’s ‘scourge’:
gunshots and shouts heard faintly in the night,
and then the sound of nothing, from the hour
we woke, till darkness muffled even silence.
 
It means the silhouette of cranes, unmoved
day after day, against the sea and sky,
the broken cliffs that penned us in, the tides
that ebbed and swelled but carried only time.
 
And coffins, queueing to be tipped in layers
and heaped with lime, in ground so hard it hurt,
and seabirds, flying from and to where only
they could know, and never looking down.
 
II.
 
We were apart: from other towns,
from friends and lovers
gone before the gates were closed
or lost in layered graves,
and families of whom we feared to hear the news.
 
We were divorced from who we’d been
and from the times ahead
we’d dared to see in times before,
when we’d known how to grieve.
 
III.
 
At first, when the sickness began to slow,
as birds returned, to watch us from the trees,
we couldn’t remember how to celebrate.
 
When we’d begun to learn the art of joy again
and rediscovered how to walk in crowds,
and ring the bells, a close friend died:
 
a soldier fallen,
as news of the armistice arrived.


This was published on the Poetry and COVID website, along with many other COVID-related poems and associated comments – well worth checking out.

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