& now it’s for real! Not the science fiction

of books or movies, test tube anomalies

reported from overseas, alien

 

contagion you could only survive given

regulated ventilation, capsulating spacesuit

NASA style. Say all you want

 

about mock-scenarios: Travolta’s The Boy in the

Plastic Bubble: the hellish loneliness of isolation

& quarantine, the psalmist who forewarned

 

of a “great trouble” I’d witness after she

took my $100 and told me in parting,

in no uncertain terms, that like the animals

 

who flocked to Noah’s Ark, I’d be spared,

Anita and the boys too, all of us protected

by the agency of some mystical

 

ministration. & then, almost overnite,

the pandemic surged like a tsunami,

came crashing with a shuddering BOOM!

 

In an instant life ceased to exist as we knew it.

Suddenly no one talked about wars,

the constant threat of terrorism, batting stances,

 

box scores, fast-breaks, Kobe or the triangle offense.

International flights were ordered home

as confirmed cases & death tolls

 

started to mount. Rubber gloves and surgical masks

became the accepted norm as hysteria & fear

ratcheted up & lockdown &

 

social distancing went from memes to everyday lingo.

& then the stern & troubling projections

from the C.D.C. of souls lost,

 

the World Health Organizations holocaust-like forecast

models; how airborne viruses mutate, flourish in

more welcoming environments—

 

the least resistant the more accommodating the host.

Contagions have gripped the earth before, left

a nasty trail of death & pestilence.

 

From S.A.R.S. to Swine to Covid-19, we have

Felt its brunt. But NOTHING compares

to the scourage of the Black Plague,

 

the Great Mortality, the Pestilence, the Great Bubonic,

the Great Plague, or lastly, because the world

had never seen the likes of it before,

 

because Europe & its counterparts, Eurasia & its outliers,

satellite societies, fringe nomadic & Mongols,

only a hundred years since the last

 

sighting of Genghis Khan upon the steppe, in the saddle

of a fine Arab Charger, before massive,

uncontrollable death—

 

millions upon millions upon millions—

more than ever accounted for

in the totality of wars.

 

& now we enlist them by anacronyms,

refer to them by geographic or animal

origin; the long history of illness

 

independent of questioning how or why.

You can trace the migration of the Plague

back to the Silk Road

 

where it swept through Crimea & then upon the yaw

& creak of Genoese merchants

bound for parts of Judea & Galilee,

 

the archipelagos of Thrace, the coastline of the Aegean

& Ionian Seas, from the stiletto

boot to the Strait of Gibraltar, rats scurrying

 

off the decks & gangplanks infecting

the under-belly of Europe.

O’ sickness, how it wiped-out the land—

 

from soothsayers to merchants to prostitutes

to great barrons— O’ bodies left roadside,

no shelter remained to conceal the dying,

 

the rotting. & the gripping reality of naked histrionics:

the caterwauling, the protracted gasp and breath,

the sudden collapse of the living

 

upon the dead, crying into the stale breath

of what they said would spread.

Stepping around or over

 

the faces of the known— bluish, purplish

luminesces cauliflowering the neck,

hair greased with sweat,

 

bacteria & fungi doing their dirty work.

Tonight Time’s Square is a flashing ghostown.

The remedies for pain have

 

different denominators, and they know what

they are— depression, drugs & daily exercise;

faith in god or 4 more oxycotin

 

pilfered from my wife’s purse. I’ll toss them in a box,

shake & offer: whichever you get

must be followed to completion.

 

What does the muse say? Grin & bear it.

 

 

Tony Tracy

Tony Tracy is the author of three poetry collections: The Christening, Without Notice and his newly released book overseas, Welcome To Your Life. He is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Burningword, Jelly Bucket, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Briar Cliff Review, and various other magazines and journals.

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